Rebuttal to the Tribune Article dated 2/10/18: Cuesta College faces $551,000 budget deficit as faculty press for raise

The recent Tribune article about “deficits” and faculty salaries at Cuesta College contained several false and misleading statements from the District. We write in response to those false statements.

What is true from the article, however, is the District’s attitude about faculty. The District does not care that faculty compensation is dead last in the cohort, and would like to make it even lower by transitioning to a part-time faculty. Dr. Stork stated his belief that a 1% increase in salary is “fair,” despite the current low faculty salaries earned by faculty and the District’s plan to replace permanent faculty positions with temporary ones.

Here are rebuttals to the false and misleading arguments put forth by Dr. Stork:

(1) The District’s Projections Are Self-Serving and Unreliable:

The administration claims an inability to pay, citing a “projected” deficit for this year based on last year’s expenditures, but their projections are designed to suppress faculty compensation and have never been accurate.

For example, the District projected a deficit of $1.7 million in 2016-2017, but had an actual positive balance of $2.1 million. The District relied on this projection – off by a staggering $3.8 million — for its initial offer of nothing for faculty.

Such inaccurate projections are not anomalies, but are instead part of the design. History backs this up. The District has projected a deficit in 4 of the last 5 years and ended up with a positive balance sheet in all of them. The annual ending balance, including the reserve, has grown from $6.7 million to $10.9 at the end of 2017. For 2017-2018, the district has already underspent its budgeted amounts by almost $1 million.

Every year the district claims that there is no money to bring faculty salaries closer to the median, and that faculty must continue to sacrifice, staying in last place because of its dire budget predictions. And every year the District ends with a large surplus, your sacrifice having been already forgotten.

(2) Faculty salaries have not kept pace with inflation or the negotiated cohort:

The 1% salary increase was characterized by Dr. Stork in the Tribune as “fair” despite the knowledge that overall faculty compensation (salary + benefits) lags behind our comparison colleges by 10-15%. A 1% increase will not close that gap, nor keep pace with inflation. If the District has its way, faculty will earn less in real earnings than it did last year. (And they will be doing more work, as the District seeks to replace full-time positions with temporary ones.)

Faculty have received 7% in total salary increases since 2008, an average of less than 1% per year. Not surprisingly, faculty salaries have fallen further behind the districts in our former 15 district comparable list between 2009 and 2017. Reducing salary gaps for certain employees is important to the administration. They recently eliminated a salary gap for educational administrators, so all but starting dean salaries are now close to the comparable average. We agree that our administrators should be well paid, but not at the expense of faculty, and not when a faculty salary gap is met with indifference.

(3) The District’s characterizations about PT faculty compensation are false.

It is apparent from the article that the district is intent upon transforming the Cuesta workforce into a much more temporary one, and that they have some disdain for fair compensation for PT faculty. This makes sense: as the District relies more and more on PT faculty, it wants to pay them less, and so it falsely claims in the article that they are overpaid.

To the contrary, it is nowhere near true that all part-time faculty at Cuesta earn 20% more than at comparison colleges. Only about a fifth of the part-time faculty (about forty people), those who have served our students the longest, have reached salary steps that can be paid this amount. Most districts have only 5-8 steps for PT faculty, while Cuesta offers 14. It’s only the PT faculty at high numbered steps that can earn more than PT faculty at other colleges. Most part-time instructors, the ones in columns A-D and steps 1-10, earn much less than they would at our comparison colleges. This ranges from about 7-13% less depending on the step and column. The comparison of part-time faculty compensation between districts is more complicated than for FT faculty because of items such as office hours. The district argues that PT faculty are over-compensated because those teaching 40% or higher load can get paid for office hours, but this is true for most of the comparable districts as well.

The district is continually asking faculty to step up and make improvements to the college. We, as faculty, have poured massive efforts into solving accreditation problems, revising planning documents, writing curriculum and developing AD-Ts, and pushing measures to improve student success and access. The district exploits faculty care for the College and students as a means to underpay us. It cannot expect faculty to work solely for their legacy to Cuesta College. Faculty deserve better than this shoddy and disdainful treatment.

Thank you for your continued support,

The CCFT Executive Board

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