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Statement: “Either party can reopen in future years for those articles pertaining to Health and Welfare and Wages,” said a San Diego Unified School District financial disclosure, signed March 1, 2010 by Superintendent Bill Kowba and former Chief Financial Officer James Masias.

Determination: False

Analysis: Last year, the San Diego Unified School District entered into a three-year contract with its teachers union that the district is already attempting to renegotiate. In the deal, struck in the midst of financial distress, teachers agreed to five unpaid days off for each of the first two years, saving the district about $20 million a year.

In the last year, however, salaries essentially jump 10 percent in 12 months as the five days off go away and workers get three successive pay increases that will eventually cost $53.2 million annually.

With state finances still in shambles, district leaders have begun to worry about that final year.

When school districts ink a labor deal, they must turn in a document to the County Office of Education explaining the deal’s financial impacts and promising they can meet the agreement’s costs. The County Office of Education is tasked with ensuring that local school districts make sound financial decisions. In its disclosure for the 2010 deal with teachers, San Diego Unified told the financial watchdog that it could trigger renegotiations during the contract’s life if it desired.

Either party can reopen in future years for those articles pertaining to Health and Welfare and Wages.

That’s not true. The school district tried to renegotiate the deal earlier this year, seeking to put off the pay increases and extend the unpaid days off. However, without that trigger, all the district could do was ask for renegotiations. The union refused to bargain.

When asked about the discrepancy, San Diego Unified spokesman Bernie Rhinerson admitted the information was incorrect and said the County Office of Education had been notified.

The county office uses the disclosures to monitor districts’ financial health and can offer opinions on the labor deals, though it doesn’t always. There’s no penalty for the district’s inaccuracy.

Lora Duzyk, the county office’s assistant superintendent for business services, said the new information “changes the underlying understanding of what happened.” It was a sure thing the district could renegotiate. Now it’s potentially unlikely, she said.

“It just changes where they need to look to deal with budget cuts. If they’re not going to get the bargaining units to reopen, then they’ll have to look for other solutions,” she said.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

You can also e-mail new Fact Check suggestions to factcheck@voiceofsandiego.org. What claim should we explore next?

I’m the editor of VOSD. You can reach me at andrew.donohue@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526.

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