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Custodians Hope For No Cuts; Teachers Want an Audit

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – In the wake of the St. Louis school board's decision to approve massive budget cuts, the local teachers' union is calling for an independent state audit of the district's finances.

Prior to the budget's approval, the St. Louis Teachers and School Related Personnel Union Local 420 successfully negotiated to keep increases in medical insurance co-payments out of the plan. Those and other benefit issues will be saved for the bargaining table.

Until then, president Mary Armstrong says the union wants Governor Bob Holden to order a state audit to truly determine the depth of the district's financial crisis:

"Most people will say, don't you trust the numbers that have been given?" Armstrong said. "Well, we've looked at the numbers and they don't add up to us. And who else could we call upon other than the state auditor to come in and look at the books?"

Armstrong says efforts now turn to helping displaced workers with job relocation needs.

Meanwhile, the union representing more than 450 St. Louis public school custodians says its confident most of its members will be spared under the district's new budget.

Originally, the budget called for those jobs to be outsourced to private contractors. But under an agreement reached Wednesday, 385 custodians would be retained if the bids process shows the union can meet the district's spending goals.

About 70 union workers would still lose their jobs. But Don Rudd, with the Service Employees International Union Local 50, says they could come back through normal employee attrition.

"And so we're fairly confident that the initial group that gets laid off, they'll be put on a recall list, and I don't believe it will be that long before most of them if not all of them end up back working for the district again."

Bids from private contractors are due back to the district by August 25.