Thursday, 25 July 2024

Yuba College board votes to lay off 56 classified employees across the district

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Yuba College's classified employees rallied outside the district's board of trustees' meeting on Wednesday, October 14, 2009, in an attempt to stop the board from cutting 56 jobs. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.





CLEARLAKE – As trustees of the Yuba Community College District Board prepared to begin their regular meeting Wednesday afternoon, they found waiting for them dozens of classified employees, sporting blue and white t-shirts and signs.


“What do we want? A fair share, not a full share!” the employees chanted repeatedly in the minutes before the meeting started at the college's Clear Lake Campus on Dam Road Extension.


Close to four hours later, as the board's meeting neared its end, there would be more chanting.


“Shame on you! Shame on you!” Classified employees shouted in unison outside the meeting room following unanimous votes to accept the 2010 budget and lay off 56 classified employees across the district, out of a total of 210 members of the local chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA).


Outraged CSEA members continued to chant while the meeting went on inside. Finally, a campus police officer closed the building's windows to shut out the sound. Talk then turned to the need to recall the board.

 

Officials said at Wednesday's meeting that they had little choice in making the decision for the district, which has three campuses serving eight counties.

 

With a 2009-10 budget that anticipates $45.5 million in revenue and $48.8 million in expenses, Vice Chancellor Albert Alt reported that 86 percent of the budget goes to personnel and there are few other places to make cuts.


But union members insisted that they had tried to offer alternatives to the district, to no avail. They also charged that during the recent financial crisis the district had continued to hire administrative positions while trying to balance the budget at the expense of lower-paid employees who offer the bulk of student support services.


Close to 80 people – classified employees, faculty, students and community members – were present for the lengthy meeting, which lasted from 4 p.m. until just before 8 p.m.


Many of the classified staff had carpooled from Woodland and Marysville to be at the meeting, which included not just a budget session and discussions of potential layoffs, but appeals from many groups to save programs said to be in danger.


Library services and the MESA program were two areas members of the public brought to the board, along with complaints from students that cuts to the college were impacting their ability to meet their course requirements.


Elena Heilman, a college librarian, said library services was looking at an 8-percent cut. She questioned how they could continue maintaining a functional library with such cuts, and pointed out that those reductions included laying off the entire staff of Woodland Community College's library.


The MESA program offers assistance and support and tutoring help to science and engineering students. Students who rely on the program said it's made their education possible.


During their reports, trustees told the staff and faculty that they were concerned about the budget cuts they were facing and the possible impacts on everyone. Several of them referenced postcards and letters they're received about the proposed cuts.


“My answers aren't going to please you in many cases,” said Trustee George Nicholau, who has been on the board for nearly 30 years. “I'm thinking in terms of he whole district, and it's very difficult.”


Trustee Brent Hastey said the district is proposing a 3-percent, across-the-board cut to save all jobs, but he's hearing that employees are unwilling to consider it. “Unlike the federal government, we don't get to print money,” he said.


But classified staff representatives, during their address to the board, said they had not heard about the 3-percent cut proposal, which was mentioned later in the meeting by Yuba College Chancellor Nicki Harrington, and which they said Board Chair Alan Flory was quoted as mentioning in a newspaper article in Marysville.


Minerva Lemus, vice president of the CSEA chapter, said she and others were laid off illegally according to the terms of their contract.


She said they received verbal notices on Sept. 22 and 23; the contract requires they receive something in writing 35 work days prior to such verbal notification. Some senior employees also were laid off, when those with the least seniority must be laid off first.


The demand she laid before the board was reinstatement of all employees and, if necessary, the beginning of a process which follows the contract.


Harrington said there have been no layoff notices issued, and no one has been laid off.


Clear Lake Campus Dean Bryon Bell tried to emphasize good news items to the group during his board report, noting they have an amazing group of new and returning students.


He said said the campus was poised to take the next steps in expanding student services and programs, but that's where the bad news came in.


“There's no money for growth, there's no money even to maintain the status quo,” he said.


As he ended his report, Bell noted, “The better days ahead cannot get here quickly enough.”


Harrington told the board that the administrative budgets had been cut in half, noting they were looking at “every nook and cranny.”


However, the board didn't agree to cut its $17,000 travel budget, voting down for the second meeting in a row a motion to do just that.


Associated Students of Yuba College President Juan Cervantes had challenged the board at its Sept. 9 meeting and again on Wednesday to cut the travel budget.


Budget challenges ahead


Alt went over the district's budget challenges. He said the community college system was looking at $649 million in cuts, which translated into 10 percent for Yuba College.


Yuba took a $2.3 million hit at the end of last year after cutting $500,000 in expenses out of its $48 million 2008-09 budget. The district also has been promised $570,000 from the system office that it's not likely to see, said Alt.


He recommended a 7-percent reserve, which is less than the 10-percent level the firm handling the Measure J facilities bond sales wants to reach a better credit rating.


Alt said if the board approved the budget and layoff recommendations – which he said during the meeting were among the worst he'd ever had to offer – that he would begin meeting with CSEA and the campus police associations to make reductions as part of bargaining.


During public comment, Douglas Harris, who teaches human services classes in Clearlake, spoke to the board on behalf of district's adjunct – or part-time – faculty.


Harris said they've lost 69 positions since the spring, with more to come. He estimated that adjunct faculty, many of them retirees who use the income to supplement their retirement, teach about half of the district's course offerings.


“That makes us very important. Without us what to do you have? So adjuncts matter,” Harris said.


Harris also brought the focus back around to students, without whom “none of us has any purpose here.”


He pointed out that classified employees are essential in providing support and services to students.


In order to protect their classified colleagues from cuts, Harris said the adjunct faculty were willing to consider sharing some kinds of concessions – in a proportional manner – to reduce the need for layoffs, an offer which drew enthusiastic response from the dozens of people who had sat for hours in the audience.


Mary Benson, another adjunct faculty member who teaches business classes at the Clear Lake campus, said next semester she'll be the 70th adjunct faculty member to be laid off.


Benson pointed out that as the district has neared the time for cuts it also has added six new administrative positions.


“It's hard for me to wrap my mind around why, when we're cutting so many services, administration can be growing,” she said.


The board, she added, should have considered cutting its travel budget because, despite it being only $17,000, it would have been a symbolic gesture that meant a lot to everybody.


The board voted unanimously to accept the budget before moving to accept the classified layoffs, presented in two separate resolutions based on how the positions were funded in the budget.


Teresa Paras, an instructional assistant at the Marysville campus, was one of the people whose jobs were on the chopping block. As she spoke, more than 40 fellow classified employees stood up in the audience.


Paras said her seniority might allow her to “bump” another less-senior employee, but that didn't make her happy. She said many of her colleagues are suffering from stress because of the situation.


She said the classified employees had offered the board suggestions they didn't take. Now, the board was considering laying off 56 employees. “How do you call that fair? It's devastating.”


Loretta Richard, another CSEA member targeted for layoff who works at Woodland Community College, emphasized that classified cuts hurt students.


“Balancing the budget on the backs of classified staff is a travesty,” she said.


The proposed cuts included laying off half of the Woodland campus' support staff, and the elimination of the tutoring center, which helps 500 students annually, Richard said.


Despite the outcry, the layoff resolutions both passed unanimously.


A woman from the back of the audience yelled “Shame!” after the votes.


Outside, as angry classified workers chanted “Shame on you!” to the board, Donna Veal-Spenser, a CSEA representative, wept, as other union members discussed what actions to take next.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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