This week’s edition of the Main Line Suburban, www.mainlinemedianews.com features the following news story by Alan Thomas. Thomas attended the T/E Finance Committee meeting on Monday night and weighs in on the confusion surrounding the teachers offer of a ‘salary freeze’ for next year versus the school boards requested ‘pay increase waiver’.
If you take the time to read the many comments posted on Community Matters over the last few days, it is apparent that confusion remains over what the teachers union is offering to the school district in savings next year as compared to what the school board thinks that the teachers are offering. I am hopeful that there will be further clarification in the next day or so on the offer. Right now, I feel that we are comparing ‘apples to oranges’ when we look at the teacher offer and without some clarification, I don’t see how we get on the same page.
T/E budget workshop discusses teachers’ pay-freeze offer, board’s rejection and sports/activity fees
By Alan Thomas
Main Line Media News
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board’s finance committee held Budget Workshop II Monday night to discuss sports and activities fees. The committee put more time and effort, it seemed, into explaining how a pay waiver is different from a pay freeze, perhaps in light of the disclosure that the Tredyffrin/Easttown Education Association had communicated an offer to accept a one-year pay freeze in a letter dated April 15. It was an offer that the board later rejected but apparently had not disclosed to the public in a timely fashion.
The committee’s if not the board’s explanation of the letter may have come as the result of an April 29 Community Matters blog entry titled “T/E Teachers Union Offers Salary Freeze … TESD Rejects Offer, Wants Pay-Increase Waiver” in which blogger Pattye Benson told her readers that “there was an ‘offer’ from the teachers’ union and a ‘rejection’ from the school district … there is confusion between a salary ‘freeze’ and a salary ‘waiver’ … [and] the school board intends to clarify those distinctions.”
Community Matters is part of Main Line Media News’ Community Media Lab at www.mainlinemedianews.com .
The apparent lack of transparency was explained by board member Deborah Bookstaber as a matter in which “the board didn’t mention the letter [previously] because there was no time to discuss it.” Her explanation answered TEEA president Peter DiPiano, who had addressed the committee to ask for a clarification about when an executive session, during which time the letter might have been discussed, had been held.
Committee chair Kevin Mahoney later explained the difference between the two pay-related terms: with a pay waiver in place, there would be “no increase [in salary] next year, no extension for either [TEEA or TENIG] of the contracts, [and that the TEEA freeze offer was a] pay freeze” with raises deferred while step progression for the union members would continue to the time when the postponed raises would be resumed. The pay waiver being proposed by the board would effectively end the teachers’ contract and erase the final year’s raises and teachers’ vertical movement on the district salary scale.
District business manager Art McDonnell used several graphics to show that, over five years, the waiver plan would save the district a lot more money, around $15 million by 2015-16, assuming that salaries remained flat until then.
All non-union district employees are not getting raises. Only TEEA and TENIG, the non-instructional employees union whose contract runs a year beyond the teachers’, would be affected by either a pay waiver or a freeze.
Board president Karen Cruickshank also explained to the audience that “Mr. DiPiano has been in conversation with us. We will talk with the union and find something that works.”
And board member Richard Brake further clarified the point, addressing McDonnell, that “no advancement on the salary scale is the majority of the difference [between the waiver and the freeze].”
A community member, stressing state legislators’ part in the present overall school-budget crisis, wanted to remind people that Chester County’s Home and School Associations are sponsoring a legislator discussion and question-and-answer session concerning the current critical issues involving public education Thursday, May 5, 7-9 p.m. at West Chester East High School, 450 Ellis Lane, West Chester.
During other related discussion about the agenda, the earned income tax appeared briefly again, with the board loosely agreeing to make it a part of budget discussions for 2011-12. Any EIT must be approved by a ballot referendum.
Other community members’ comments ranged from a plea for “no more cuts or changes [in educational programs]” to an observation that “there is no way to remedy the pension situation.”
In the end the committee agreed to plug a middle-of-the-road sports and/or activity fee “place-holder” worth $70,000 into the budget process in order to pass the committee-approved budget to the next regular board meeting May 9 with the general fund designated as the solution to closing the more than $3-million gap. That and more can still change of course as the budget continues on its way to final approval June 28.