Its the first step in cutting $500,000 from budget

Taft College has taken the first step in an effort to produce a half million dollars in savings in this year’s budget.
At a special meeting Sept. 27 the college’s Board of Trustees approved cost-cutting moves that will take a small bite out of employee health care coverage and require some employee groups to take three unpaid furlough days.
Like other California school districts, the West Kern Community College District has been buffeted by three years of budget cuts and the threat of more severe bleeding if tax initiatives aimed at shoring up school funding fail.
Employees in the classified and management groups will take three furlough days in the current school year that amount to a one percent pay cut, and both classified and faculty groups will see minor tweaking of district-paid health benefit plans.
The total savings comes to approximately $250,000 or half of what the board asked for.
Furlough pay deductions will begin in November and will be taken out in equal increments through next June.
Supt./Pres. Dena Maloney said the negotiations process was used to reach agreement.
“We have been working on this in the bargaining groups, and I’m happy to say we have reached consensus,” she said.
She thanked the employee groups for “helping us move forward.”
Velda Long, president of TC’s California School Employees Assn. (CSEA) chapter, told the board her unit “has a good relationship with the district.”
She said the cost-saving plan was approved overwhelmingly when the unit took a vote.
Human Resources Director Jana Peters told trustees the district’s “Cadillac” health care option “has finally been parked in the garage.”
TC has long been the envy of other community colleges with what many considered perhaps the most comprehensive plan.  It no longer is available, and its replacement requires more out-of-pocket expenses for co-pays and prescription coverage.
Still, employees think the plan is attractive.
“Those options were the best options that we could come up with,” Long said of the negotiations for trimming health care costs.
The faculty bargaining unit approved the changes the day before the board meeting after considering several options.
“Last Friday we reached consensus on Option 1,” Maloney said.  “They voted on Wednesday, and it passed.  The faculty group showed initiative in working with the district.  I’m very pleased that it was ratified.”
“We’re all pulling together for the benefit of our students, the college and the community,” Long said.
The college has been drawing on reserves to offset recent budget cuts, but those sources are getting thin.