Milestone Agreement Between T/E Teachers and School District: Is it a ‘Salary Freeze’ or a ‘Pay Waiver’. . . Does it Really Matter What We Call It?

There was a milestone agreement between the T/E teachers and the school district last night.  I am not sure whether we call the TEEA-TESD agreement a salary ‘freeze’ or a ‘pay waiver’ but, . . . if both sides are happy, does it really matter what we call it?

The school board members presented the details of the new teacher union offer.  The offer from Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA) was read and the discussion opened for public questions. The board voted on the proposal and the agreement won unanimous support from the school board.  

To read a copy of the TEEA-TESD agreement, click here.  If I understand the agreement, here are the important points:

  • The teachers will have their salaries frozen for the first 6 months of the 2011-12 school year based on their final paycheck of the 2010-11 school year.
  • For the second 6 months of the 2011-12 school year, the teachers salaries will ‘unfreeze’ and they will advance.
  • With this agreement, the T/E school district agrees there will be no involuntary furloughing or involuntary demotion of teachers for 2011-12.
  • This agreement is a one-time cost savings for the 2011-12 school year only and is not precedent setting.  The agreement does not extend the current contract and negotiations for the next contract will be on schedule.

I asked Pete DePiano, union president of TEEA for his thoughts on the TEEA-TESD agreement.  He writes,

“I am so proud of the membership of TEEA for stepping up with this offer during these difficult times. Likewise, I am happy that the Board was able to accept. A special note of gratitude must be extended to Mrs. Cruickshank, for we were in constant communication behind the scenes for a VERY long time working on this – even prior to the Corbett announcement. It was that continued line of open dialogue that made this all possible. We are looking forward to a wonderful conclusion of the school year as we continue to serve the greatest students in the greatest district in the Commonwealth of PA.”

Pete DePiano
President, TEEA

______________________________________________________

Ray Clarke attended last night’s school board meeting and at my request kindly shares his thoughts below.

Re the Earned Income Tax Study Group, I want to personally thank Kevin Mahoney for suggesting that the group members be apolitical.  The school board members made it clear that no one from the school board would be on the study group and I applaud their efforts in making the selection process open and transparent!

Important developments at tonight’s School Board meeting
  1. The Board voted to accept an offer from the TEEA to defer next year’s contracted pay increase for six months with no change to the contract termination date. After six months, salaries will increase to the contracted 2011/12 levels, with step and level movement. There will be no furloughs or demotions during 2011/12, and 2012 retirees will be protected. This is expected to save the District $917,000 in 2011/12. The five year model, which assumes no salary increase in the next contract, claimed that these savings versus the previous projection continue into the out years – although I remain puzzled about that, since the matrix and distribution in place at 6/30/2012 is unchanged under the offer. It may be important to understand expectations on this going into the next contract negotiations.
  2. The impact on next year’s budget is fairly clear, though. The board approved a budget that has a 3.8% property tax increase and a $2.2 million draw down of the fund balance, with an additional $1.9 million possible in the event of specific contingencies. There was no appetite for an Activity Fee for next year, and very different philosophies from all Board members that spoke. Only Kevin Buraks voted against an amendment to remove it from the preliminary budget. Worth looking at the tape to review the issues.
  3. The Board defined the process for obtaining citizen input on the pros and cons of an EIT, through a Tax Study Group. They will select 9 residents for the Group based on information to be requested in a May 16th mailing to residents. Work to be completed by October, for a November decision by the Board whether to move the process forward towards an April 2012 referendum. Important difference from the 2006 effort: the group’s role is not to present a recommendation, but to help educate the Board and the public. The Board is looking for representation from across T/E, and wants the group to be apolitical. All meetings to be open to the public; not sure if that’s very conducive to a deep dive into the economics, but maybe that’s not the purpose.
  4. Per Dr Brake’s legislative report, there seems to be some likelihood that the Legislature will reverse or limit the Governor’s proposed capricious Social Security reimbursement cut, so that may help TESD’s budget (at best, by $1 million). It also seems probable that the local ability to increase taxes beyond the Act 1 limit will not be completely eliminated, retaining at least the possibility of PSERS and special education Exceptions.
A final pet peeve: once again this year the gaming rebate was used in the context of an offset to the property tax increase. If the rebate was increasing by $171 that would be true, but in fact it’s just the same ~$180 it has been for every year since 2008/9. At least it wasn’t Dr Waters this time, but rather Dr Brake, who I thought might know better.
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10 Comments

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  1. In essence, this board is punting the problem to the next board by using the one-time money. (savings offered by the union and the fund balance) Eventually, revenue will have to equal or exceed expenditures, through implementation of an EIT, salary concessions and/or head count reduction.

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  2. I agree Citizen One. The reason the waiver was important is because the last year of this contract (which they now will advance to for half a year) is the major bump in this salary schedule….big raises. By advancing to that, for however short a time period, they moved the bar up. Moving it down is mightly tough (read: Impossible). So they got something — better than what the teachers had initially offered — but despite that, they did not get “enough.”

    Now watch the election materials — about fiscal responsibilitiy and excellent education…….

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  3. I think it is a win-win scenario – and a practical resolution. Who knows what the economic climate will be a year from now – let’s hope it improves considerably – the discussions then may be very different from those today.

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    give it a rest Reply:

    But as an elected official, should they make decisions when “who knows what the economic climate will be?”…they had power and leverage — younger teachers pushing their leadership to protect their jobs. They gave them a 7% raise, mitigated the overall cost, and put themselves in a position to live status-quo for 10 years with this health care plan. The problem — too many in the audience and definitely some of the board don’t even know it.

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  4. I assume that you are aware that the teachers have a year remaining on their contract and they did not have to do anything. What would you have had the board do, reject the offer when there was not going to be another offer coming? I think the board (on a bi-partisan basis) has every right to boast about financial responsibility and excellent education.

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  5. The best news from my perspective is that there seems to be a more positive relationship between the Board and the TEEA. Perhaps we’ll get a sensible e-learning arrangement, and realistic positions in the next contract negotiations.

    Yes indeed, the TEEA gave something they did not need to, but they got something (no furloughs) in return. The long term economics for the district are no different.

    Also unchanged under the preliminary budget is next year’s property tax increase. All taxpayers would really see the benefit of the TEEA initiative if their tax increase was in fact lower than the maximum. An increase of just less than 3% would still leave the district slightly better off in 2011/12 than before. Yes, that revenue has to be made up in later years, but the problem is an order of magnitude greater than the $1 million at stake here.

    Let the School Board know your views!

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  6. ” What would you have had the board do, reject the offer when there was not going to be another offer coming?”

    Wow — you could have posted that exact same question a few weeks ago when the board rejected the offer of one year…and you would have been wrong then. The union was in the position of bidding against themselves to prevent lay-offs….because the younger teachers want to keep their jobs. I believe the board had more leverage than this offer/resolution suggests. I think they blinked. But boast away. Financial responsibility reclaimed by the same people who negotiated (and clearly did not understand) the contract. Now — reelect them to do the next one. After all — their claims of savings now are about freezing salaries for the next contract — as if they don’t need to negotiate.

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  7. I could not have posted this question weeks ago when it was reasonably clear the offer submitted was the union’s opening offer. This was not, it was a take it or leave it offer. The union made a reasonable move to give the district something. Had the district not accepted the offer they would have been paying the full salaries next year. Of course the district blinked, there was no other option.

    Honestly I don’t believe that the younger teachers have any sway. The union has made little attempt to hide that they will eat their young to protect the senior teachers. While I am sure the union would like to protect as many jobs as possible I doubt the more senior teachers will give up much to make it happen.

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  8. The teachers didn’t have to do a thing. If I were them, I wouldn’t have. Not with all that money on the side and projections of no raises as far as the eye can see. What other community could you live in that provides the kind of education TE does with such low tax rates? May I suggest you try and look for one. Then, you can sell your house (where you’ll will get top dollar because of the schools) and move. Good luck though. I think you’ll have to go somewhere over the rainbow to find it!

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  9. That is really unfortunate, because Community Matters is in the nature of a public service and should not be rewarded so roughly. Bad form, they should know better, shame on them.

    Keep up the good work Pattye!

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