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Sat, Feb. 22

Teachers receive Prop 301 money and 'sad facts'

The first of two disbursements of Proposition 301 money for teachers added about $1,200 to December's paychecks for Humboldt Unified School District educators. That was about the only positive financial news for the certified employees that HUSD Financial Director Cynthia Windham had to offer at a recent Meet and Confer meeting with certified and classified staff.

Teachers receive the Prop 301 money in two payments, one in December - $1,235 this year - and one in late May, quantity unknown. The amount is dependent on what the State brings in from two sources, sales of State Land and sales tax revenue. When sales tax revenue falls, there is less money to allot to school districts.

The district's teachers received a peak amount totaling $5,756 in the 2007-2008 school year. However, in December 2010 the disbursement was only $585. A recent opinion by the Attorney General's Office will eliminate speech therapists and nursing staff from receiving 301 money, with a possibility of further ineligible categories.

To no one's surprise, student enrollment is continuing its downward trend with about 125 less students at the 60th day, Windham reported. That means the district can count on about $500,000 less in next year's funding from the state.

Phil Young, Human Resources director, delivered two more "sad facts," both of which most teachers already are aware.

"Sad fact number one is that teachers haven't had a pay raise in five years," Young said. "Sad fact number two is the amount of money coming out of your checks for state retirement has increased."

The district's soft capital money is nearly gone, Windham said. The state has decreased this part of school districts' budget over the past few years and now it is completely gone. The district has placed long-range capital plans and needs on hold. She said the district needs $300,000 per year for site technology licenses and textbooks.

"Soft capital needs should be $1.3 million this year. We need to find another funding source," she said, adding that HUSD has used some unrestricted capital to pay for soft capital needs, which includes technology updates and textbooks.

Windham said she is hearing from the state that its budget was reduced by 45 percent, but it has been falling short.

"We heard there will be more reduction in unrestricted capital. We're waiting to hear what that means for Humboldt," she said.

Young said he learned at a health insurance meeting this past month that premiums were projected to go up by 10 percent next year. He won't have solid information until February or March. This past year, the projected increase was 18 percent, but the district negotiated for a 10 percent increase. Part of the reduction came through eliminating dental insurance and the district's retirees are paying a higher percentage of their insurance.

He reported that "good news" from the state is that it could be a couple hundred million ahead by the end of the fiscal year.

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