Wednesday, July 25, 2012

TOP STORY >> District rolling in money, say PCSSD unions

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County School District appears to have more money than it expected, and the disbarred unions are saying the district acted in haste slicing money from the teachers and kicking the unions to the side.

A news release from the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers says at a recent non-renewal hearing for support staff, PCSSD chief financial officer Bill Goff testified that the district’s 2011-2012 ending fund balance was $16.1 million, which is $4 million more than previously projected.

Both PACT and PASS (Pulaski Association for Support Staff) say the extra money shows that the financial distress issue was “an obvious union-busting ploy.”

PACT president Marty Nix said, “Many of the financial cuts were totally unnecessary, but the most senseless was to cut two days from teachers’ contracts. It makes absolutely no sense to increase the amount of work teachers must do while at the same time decreasing the amount of time they have to do it.”

PASS president Emry Chesterfield said, “It is obvious to us that the intent of district administration and the PCSSD board (Arkansas Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell) was to bust the union.”

But Goff, in an email, said the unions are not presenting the complete financial story.
“I said at this point in time, with much more year-end processing to do, our fiscal year 2012 Ending Legal Fund Balance is about $16 million. That includes the non-recurring revenue of $15.1 million due to Act 871 of 2011. 

The 2012-13 budget is not due to the state until September 30, 2012.  I expect the operating fund budgeted expenditures to be in the range of $180 million and little change to the ending legal fund balance.  

If we meet our goal of the balance being 10 percent of annual expenditures we’ll need to end with $18 million.  That’s about a one-month reserve,” he wrote.

Pact insists that this financial news means the district will end up with an $18.3 million surplus instead of a $13.2 million deficit that it told the state back in February, which forced most of the budget cutting actions against the teachers.

“District teachers and support staff continue to shoulder the entire burden of a financial crisis that, quite frankly, does seem to exist,” union officials said in their release.

Throughout the entire negotiations process, union officials said they continued to state that there was no need to make so many premature permanent cuts to teacher and support staff contracts because there was no trend of declining fund balances.

The two unions have filed lawsuits against the district over the cuts and refusal to recognize and negotiate with the unions.