BC faculty and staff criticize new policy

Robert Mullen, Sports Editor

The Kern Community College District’s Board of Trustees decided to increase the district-wide mandatory reserves to 15 percent of the yearly budget, up from the five percent required by California law – a move which has caused some concern among the faculty and staff at Bakersfield College.

Kate Pluta, an English teacher at BC who has been with the school for 35 years in various positions, is one of the faculty members against the board’s decision.

“It limits [BC’s] flexibility, and the district managed fine in really difficult economic times when the budget between the colleges was cut, when the budgets between everybody was cut, when the number of class sections were decreased, when people who retired or moved to another job weren’t replaced, we made it through that,” said Pluta. “There were no layoffs, there were no salary reductions, none of that, and we hade five percent in our board’s policy language then.”

Pluta wondered why the board has decided to increase the minimum reserves so much.

“Now that times are better, now that a [state] budget has been passed on time for the last three years, proposition 30 passed last year, things are looking better,” she said. “Do they not trust themselves to be responsible when they’ve managed in very difficult times with the five percent reserves?”

The KCCD is required by law to have a minimum five percent reserve district-wide, and each school is required to have a further three percent reserve. In 2009, the board set a goal of maintaining a 10 percent reserve following the start of the 2008 recession, and at points during the five-year period from 2008 to 2013, the reserve increased to as much as 20 percent.

During the Board of Trustees meeting April 10, Pluta noted this and talked about her support for the “prudence of the board in maintaining a reserve that allowed [BC] to weather the storms without borrowing additional funds or laying off employees.”

Part of Pluta’s problem with the decision is the reasoning behind it. The district, she said, wants to build up reserves like government entities, but that model does not work with education she believes.

“We are not a corporation, neither are we a city or county government. Our responsibility is to spend taxpayers’ money wisely,” she said. “That means maintaining reserves, but it also means maintaining the colleges and the programs and services they provide students. Otherwise why are we here?”

The library and counseling departments at BC are just a couple of the programs that have been devastated over the last few years. Of the two retiring librarians, Marci Lingo and Dawn Dobie, only one position is being replaced, though originally there were not going to be any replacements for those positions.

The KCCD did not respond to questions put forward by The Rip on this matter.

This semester also marks contract renegotiations between the BC faculty and staff, and the KCCD.

Nancy Guidry has been with BC as a librarian for 14 years and has noted massive discrepancies between raises offered to BC employees and employees of the KCCD.

Chancellor Sandra Serrano “has a three year contract, so every three years it comes up for renewal and apparently it was due to be renewed last year. She went from having $282,450 in 2009 to $308,000 a year, which is a nine-percent raise, which is significant, especially for a high-end salary to get that kind of a raise,” said Guidry.

According to Michele Bresso, KCCD’s associate vice chancellor, Serrano’s salary is determined by looking at administrative compensation rates in similar districts, as well as changes to the California Consumer Price Index and job performance.

In comparison over the last six years BC employees have not received a cost of living adjustment and have gained only around 2.5 percent over the last six years, according to Susan Regier, the chief negotiator on behalf of the faculty of the three colleges within the KCCD.

She believes that negotiations, which have been going on since early 2014, are productive and hopes for some higher raises.

“Given the improvement in the state budget and the increased allocation to the district as a whole I am hopeful that our new contract will keep our salaries competitive with other college districts in the state,” she said.

Regier thinks negotiations may be over prior to the end of the semester in late May, however, she notes that the constraints of time may push the negotiations into the fall of 2014 because both parties have agreed not to negotiate during the summer.