Like all public entities across the state, the Hesperia Unified School District is struggling to balance its budget for the 2010-11 school year and beyond. Over the last couple of years our efforts to reduce spending and keep the budget balanced have been negated by the unexpected cuts that the state has made to our funding. We were recently blindsided when, as a result of the Governor's proposed budget, our projected deficit of $8 million for next school year ballooned to an estimated $13 million. This unexpected shortfall presents an enormous challenge to the District.


Since personnel costs make up over 70 percent of our expenses, the Board directed its negotiating team to try to reach agreements with employee bargaining groups to reduce salaries, wages and/or benefits. A "fair share" approach was to be used in cutting expenses, which would equate to about 20 percent of the overall deficit for support staff, 10 percent for management, and 70 percent for teachers.


Two of the employee groups have already agreed to reduce their salary and benefits to obtain the desired cuts. Negotiations with the third group, Hesperia Teachers Association ("HTA"), began in January 2010. These sessions proved to be futile, so a mediator was assigned by the state to work with both parties to try to find some common ground. In mediation, the necessary "fair share" needed from teachers was not reached. In addition, while both sides (the District and HTA) discussed increasing class sizes and laying off teachers, this outcome was not acceptable.


Since mediation was unsuccessful, our negotiations have now moved to the level of factfinding. This means that a panel of three qualified individuals will conduct investigations and hold hearings to assess the financial condition of the District and its impact on these proceedings. They are required to make their findings public within 30 days after the panel is convened.


Throughout this process, good faith mediation efforts can continue on the basis of the findings of fact. If no agreement is achieved, a "Last, Best and Final" offer to the teachers can be implemented and the exclusive bargaining representative is free to call for a strike.


Although the District and HTA will continue to explore ways to resolve this situation, the fiscal solvency of the District remains the primary focus of our Board of Trustees. Unless our financial house is in order, we cannot hope to continue providing quality educational services to the children in our community.


* For information about the mediation and factfinding process, along with periodic updates on negotiations, please see our District website at: www.hesperia.org