10:00 PM PST on Monday, March 1, 2010

By BRIAN ROKOS
The Press-Enterprise

Ten counselors and seven elementary school music teachers could be among the 135 certificated employees laid off in the Hemet Unified School District if the teachers union does not accept a pay cut.

The district, trying to eliminate $19.7 million in spending before the 2010-11 school year, has already cut about $11 million. It has proposed making up the gap with a 6.5 percent pay cut for non-management workers.

Preliminary layoff notices would be issued March 15 if negotiations are not complete by then.

The agenda for tonight’s school board meeting includes a resolution that, if passed, will allow the district to lay off employees in certain categories without considering seniority. The list includes 63 elementary school teachers and 15 Reading First teachers. Advancement Via Individual Determination, Advance Path Academy and secondary band/chorus teachers, plus activities and athletic directors would be protected from layoffs.

The resolution is on the consent calendar, a grouping of routine items usually passed without discussion.

Teachers union president Jerry Hall has urged the district to find more cuts outside of payroll. The district was dealt a setback Feb. 23 when a vote was not taken to close an elementary school, and the proposal that would have saved $444,000 was withdrawn.

The school board tonight is scheduled to vote on pay cuts for the top five administrators — called the “cabinet” — and lower management.

The cabinet had already agreed to give up 1 percent more and an additional furlough day than what will be negotiated with other employee groups. Using the 6.5 percent proposal as a basis, and counting the furlough day as a half percent, the cabinet is cutting its pay 8 percent. That reduction will come from eliminating one of its benefits, an annuity of 8 percent of their salaries, Pendley said.

Hall continued to hammer at the cabinet’s benefits in a letter to union members last week.

In 2007, he said, the board approved three increases for the superintendent, deputy superintendent and three assistant superintendents: the car allowance was increased from $400 per month to $700 per month; an additional $7,349 was added to their health benefits so that the full $14,549 cost of their plan is paid by the district; and the annuity.

Because the added compensation can be taken as salary, it counts toward retirement pay.

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