April 14, 2015Media Coverage
By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News
Los Angeles Unified’s board agreed Tuesday to spend $185.9 million more on employee health care without requesting additional information in a move that prompted one board member to vow to vote against all high-dollar expenditures.
After Monica Ratliff’s request for extra information was rejected in a 5-2 vote, she voted against the health care spending and pledged to vote against all significant expenses in the future.
“I’m going to vote no on this,” Ratliff said. “And I’m going to continue to vote no on large monetary expenditures, because I think we are going toward a cliff.”
Ratliff said she fears the new plan for employee health care, which will cost the district’s general fund an additional $92.5 million over the next three years, will require layoffs and program cuts.
In 2015, the health care plan will cost $1.029 billion, increasing to $1.095 billion in 2016 and growing to $1.163 billion in 2017.
Among the information requested, Ratliff wanted to know how bankruptcy would impact the pension and health care of retirees.
LAUSD faces a projected $10.9 billion price tag for retiree health care over the next 30 years, requiring more than $890 million per year.
The most experienced former administrator on the school board, George McKenna, supported Ratliff’s effort to obtain additional information before a budget is passed, noting he has worked for a school district that went into bankruptcy.
“We need to know the budget. To not know it and not project it is fiscally irresponsible,” McKenna said.
McKenna, however, joined the 6-1 vote that agreed to the extra spending on health care.
Ratliff, one of two San Fernando Valley representatives on the seven-member school board, said she would approve the health care spending if additional information is provided before a budget vote in June.
Under the plan, premiums and co-pays will not increase for employees, Health Care Benefits Committee co-chair and Teamsters Union Local 572 representative Thomas Beatty said.
The Health Care Benefits Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the district’s various unions and one LAUSD-appointed member, recommended the plan.
Board member Tamar Galatzan opposed Ratliff’s request for the information, she said, because of the burden it would place on LAUSD’s number crunchers, who are working to create a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Earlier this year, LAUSD sent layoff notices to 609 employees, including teachers and counselors. Those educators could lose their jobs if the district fails to close its budget deficit.
The district is currently in contract negotiations and is hundreds of millions of dollars apart from its teachers union. The two sides will head back into negotiations today. United Teachers Los Angeles is demanding an 8.5 percent pay raise and more than 5,000 new educators, in part to reduce the size of classes.
Speaking at Tuesday’s board meeting, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl struck a positive note.
“We are encouraged by the conversations we’ve been having during mediation around a number of issues,” Caputo-Pearl said.