I attended last night’s marathon Board of Supervisors meeting and public hearing continuation on the Trout Creek Overlay district. For the first 20 minutes, Keene Hall was overflowing with a standing room only crowd to witness the swearing-in of Tredyffrin’s new Superintendent of Police Tony Giaimo. Family, friends, co-workers and elected officials from the community and beyond, enthusiastically supported the appointment. I also add my ‘Congratulations Tony’!
Three-fourths of the audience left following the ceremony and then it was back to ‘business as usual.’ Comments from the Trout Creek Overlay working group, a developer update and discussion from supervisors and residents took the public hearing to 11 PM. I’ll offer my remarks in another post. The T/E School Board meeting was held at the same time as the supervisors meeting and Ray Clarke kindly provided his notes on that meeting.
As I understand it, the teachers union, TEEA has filed two grievances against the District. At the last District finance meeting, we were told of the one filing ($1 million expense), which pertained to the additional high school teaching period not covered in their contract. Since September, the teachers have had 6 teaching periods rather than 5 periods. However, the community learned last night that those teachers affected by the additional teaching period are seeking a one-time payment of $2.2 million, as compensation for this extra period of work.
Although the school board unanimously approved using some of the District’s fund balance for 2012-13 budget gap, the three budget strategies remain under consideration – (1) soliciting tax exempt property owners in lieu of taxes, (2) increasing class size and (3) demotion of professional staff for economic reasons.
Here are Ray’s notes from last night’s school board meeting:
There were two you-better-be-paying-attention moments in tonight’s drawn-out meeting, marked otherwise by earnest students delving at length into school funding and opportunities for tax increases and donations, restrained only by the Solicitor waving placards announcing that their time was up.
First, in a discussion about risks to the “Proposed Final Budget”, we were reminded about the $1.4 million of revenue risk from commercial appeals and the $1 million of expense risk from the union appeal of having to teach 6 periods. Then the solicitor was asked to report on another grievance just filed by the TEEA. As last time, much incoherent mumbling, but it appears that the new grievance covers the same issue as the first one, but it goes back to the current year, adds some kind of multiplier and that’s worth another $2.2 million.
Fast forward to the very end of the meeting, Karen Cruickshank reads a statement about the negotiations that essentially says:
- It’s a new world
- The district has nothing for salary, wages and benefits (SW&B) increases
- All other employee groups have made concessions or had salaries frozen
- The Board does not like asking people to work more for less, but that’s reality for many taxpayers
- The next steps would be to revisit demotions and then all non-mandated programs
- “Everyone has to give up something”, and if so, there can be a solution
- In response to resident questions: a) Both sides are represented by professional negotiators because the stakes are high, and b) if the Board talked directly to teachers they would open themselves up to potential Unfair Labor Practice charges
- The next negotiation session is on June 7th
You would think that the Board position would be straightforward: here’s how much money we have (assume tax increases of index plus exceptions; at some point PSERS and maybe even Special Ed increases will begin to tail off), work with us to figure out how it should be allocated. The Projection Model for combined SW&B would be pretty much the line in the sand, you would think.
It appears as though the TEEA strategy is set up an extreme position for possible arbitration, and to seize as much as possible from the fund balance while it’s there, and keep the pressure on the citizenry to support new funding sources (sales or income taxes, or some change in the Act 1 index?). The $1 million from the original grievance would be an ongoing expense, but – if I understood it right – the $2.2 million would be one time.
The budget with the $1.55 million fund balance contribution was approved 9-0, but it’s clearly not final. They still have not updated the compensation costs for the retirements/replacements, which will bring a material saving. And the class size and demotion issues are still on the table. The next Finance Committee on June 11th (still at the TEAO) will hopefully bring us some decisions and accurate numbers. (But not likely a negotiations breakthrough from June 7th – what are the negotiators doing for the next three weeks, anyway?)
If anyone wants to weigh in on the donations issue, it will be discussed at the Policy Committee on May 23rd at 6:30pm in the TEAO. The June 14th Board meeting for Final Budget adoption will be in the CHS cafeteria.