RICHMOND -- West Contra Costa schools trustees ratified a new contract with the district's teachers' union Thursday evening, but not before the union president accused the district of bad faith in failing to reveal an alleged $12 million budget surplus during negotiations.
United Teachers of Richmond President Diane Brown told the board that the union is investigating assertions by school board President Charles Ramsey that West Contra Costa has the unrestricted money available to spend on programs.
"Did the district reveal all the funds it has available?" she asked. "(If not), it will damage the trust between the UTR and trustees."
Trustee Todd Groves said the money involves reserves set aside to offset so-called trigger cuts in state funding that did not materialize last year.
"(Reserves are) one-time money," Groves said. "We know our employees are losing ground, but there is no sense in engaging in (commitments) you can't sustain."
The two-year contract is retroactive to July 1 and calls for a 1 percent raise Jan. 1 and a 3 percent increase July 1.
Union members who enroll in the district's health care program receive monthly contributions from the district to offset their costs.
Single members will receive $673 per month, those with one dependent will receive $1,190 per month, and those with family coverage will receive $1,545 per month.
Beginning in January 2015, the district will pay 90 percent of the health cost of teachers with no dependents and 80 percent of the cost of those with dependents, replacing the flat-rate formula.
The total settlement, including other benefits, will cost the district $1.5 million in 2013-14 and $4.2 million in 2014-15 out of an estimated total budget of about $190 million.
Brown called it "a first step in the long-term goal" of establishing competitive salaries and benefits in the district.
The board also heard a progress report on construction of a new Portola Middle School in El Cerrito, where many parents and students are eager to escape the portable classrooms on the current campus.
The chief architect and contractors said the project is on schedule to meet its goal of opening in late 2015 or early 2016.
However, Ramsey said the lack of rain this year should give builders an opportunity to step up the pace of construction, with a goal of opening the campus at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. Groundbreaking on the project took place in June.
Chief architect Lee Pollard called the goal "a good possibility," while characterizing the location near the intersection of Norvell Street and Donal Avenue as "a difficult, hilly site."
Ramsey directed Superintendent Bruce Harter to schedule a community meeting in April or May to give Portola stakeholders another progress report.