GCOE uses reserves to pay off building
The Glenn County Board of Education has decided to dip into reserves and pay off a debt in order to give its teachers a raise.
The board voted 4-1 Wednesday to take $2.4 million out of savings to pay off the balance owned on the Glenn County Office of Education’s administration building in Orland.
The building was at the center of controversy six years ago when the Board of Education had the two-story structure “built to suit” for the purpose of leasing it, but then secured a 40-year loan to buy it when Orland officials questioned its use.
Paying off the loan will save the Office of Education $100,000 a year in interest, which could then be used to make the salaries of mostly special education teachers more equitable with teachers at the local school districts, officials said.
“We’re not attempting to be the highest paying district, but at least we wouldn’t be in last place,” said Superintendent Tracy Quarne, who brought the proposal to the board.
Only Chairwoman Judy Holzapfel dissented.
“In a time of economic uncertainty, I’m not sure we should take that kind of risk,” said Holzapfel, who said the office should also think about helping the school districts weather potentially deep cuts from the state.
The schools and the county office share in the cost of providing educational programs that must be made available to all disabled individuals to age 22.
Board member Kathy Perez said the decision to pay off the loan, for her, was a “slam dunk,” whether they used the money on salaries or any other program.
“We need to pay off our debt,” Perez said. “Paying our teachers with what we will save should be considered a fringe benefit.”
Business Services Director Randy Jones agreed it was a good move, regardless of what the savings was used for.
Although highly unlikely, Jones said the Office of Education could borrow $2 million for about half of what they would pay to maintain the loan agreement the remaining 34 more years.
Judy Corum, Glenn County Office of Education human resources director, agreed it was time the Office of Education supported its teaching staff by raising salaries.
Teaching positions at the county level start at $38,000 year, including benefits, compared to about $41,000 at the district level, she said.
“Our teachers are just asking for something,” Corum said. “They know the teachers next door are making $3,000 to $4,000 more a year, and it doesn’t feel good.”
For school districts whose special education costs have soared in the past five years – driven by higher program costs, increased demand for services and cutbacks in state and federal aid – the proposed salary increase for special education teachers is not good news.
Even though Glenn County Office of Education agreed to absorb the cost of the pay for the raises for the first few years, Willows Unified Superintendent Mort Geivett, who sits on governance committee of the
Glenn County Special Education Local Plan Area, known as SELPA, said he opposes any increase to special education costs.
“If it costs our SELPA more money this year, next year or in the future, then I’m against it,” said Geivett, who said special education costs have always been a touchy subject.
Geivett said SELPA should have been involved in discussions about raising salaries before any union negotiations, but hopes the issue will not – once again – drive a wedge between the Office of Education and the school districts.
Orland and Capay superintendents Chris von Kleist and Jim Scribner were not immediately available for comment.
For updates on this story, follow this website or read the Orland Press-Register on Saturday.