About 650 teachers will vote on the settlement tendered by the union and the district's bargaining unit beginning Wednesday.
A final tally is expected Friday afternoon, said Larry Taylor, the president of the Walnut Valley Educators Association.
"It is necessary. There is no doubt about it. Teachers recognize this. Teachers are very realistic about this," Taylor said.
Walnut Valley Unified School District - which includes schools in Walnut and Diamond Bar - is the only district in the San Gabriel Valley and one of three in the county to file "a negative certification" with the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
Inglewood Unified has gone beyond negative certification and is in state receivership.
Wilsona School District in Palmdale is the other district to file. The December filing means the district soon will be unable to pay its bills and faces a county takeover.
The district must erase a $4.3 million deficit by the end of June.
Walnut Valley also projects deficits of $5.71 million in the 2013-14 school year, and $7.2 million for 2014-15. It listed only $1,000 left in reserves for next year and negative $7.22 million in reserves the following year.
"It means essentially they have nothing left," explained Marlene Dunn, the director of LACOE's Business Advisory Services. Dunn was appointed as temporary overseer of the district's finances by Alex Cherniss, the office's chief business officer, according to a letter sent from LACOE to the district dated Jan. 14.
The district is counting on teacher furlough days, a cost-of-living payment for personnel from the state, other district cutbacks as well as employee layoffs to bring the district into the black, said Superintendent Dean Conklin.
"We're optimistic this will move the district from negative to positive," he said Monday of the tentative labor agreement.
The tentative agreement calls for teachers to take two furlough days for a 1.09 percent salary reduction by the end of May, four days in 2013-14 and four days in 2014-15, each amounting to 2.2 percent salary reductions, Taylor said. The deductions are not compounded, so the average cut in annual salary amounts to almost 1.9 percent through June 2015.
Teachers on the lower end of the pay scale will be deducted $680 this year. Higher-paid teachers with more seniority will lose about $900 this year and about $1,800 each of the following two years if the agreement is ratified, Taylor estimated.
Since October, the district has asked for six, nine and nine furlough days and the teachers have pushed back. Taylor said the district found some other money - including the 1.65 percent cost-of-living adjustment to come from the state as a result of the passage of Proposition 30 - to make up the difference.
If approved, two days will be removed from school instruction this year, he predicted.
"This (furlough days) will affect students. This will affect parents. You are taking students out of the classroom," Taylor said.
If the rank and file ratifies the contract, it must be approved by the school board Feb. 20, Conklin said.
It also will receive input from the new fiscal advisor assigned to the district, Dick Douglas, a former superintendent of Beverly Hills Unified School District, Conklin and Dunn said.
Douglas has met with several board members and members of the Walnut Valley administration, Conklin said.
He has the power to rescind district actions if they go against the budget, Dunn said.