T/E School Board: 2nd Vote Not to Accept Fact Finders Report

Last night was both the Board of Supervisors meeting and the special meeting of the school district.  I attended the BOS meeting and Ray Clarke attended the TESD meeting and kindly provided his personal notes of the meeting.  Although we should not be surprised that the school board rejected the fact finders report a second time, in speaking with Ray I am troubled by something that happened.  Now again — I was not there so if my interpretation is incorrect, someone please correct me.

It appears that there was a heated exchange between Sultanik (the negotiating attorney hired by TESD) and Laura Whittaker, the  teacher union president.  Apparently it is OK for Sultanik to make public claims against the union but Ms. Whittaker is not allowed to defend her position.  Why?  Because although Ms. Whittaker is a TESD teacher, she is not a T/E resident.   Regardless of which side you support (TESD or TEEA)  this does not seem fair.

I understand the economics of the school district, but that does not give Sultanik the right to disrespect the teachers and then offer no option for them to defend.   These people teach our children, are they not entitled to respect?  The school board has a policy that non-T/E residents are not permitted to comment at school board meetings and I appreciate that if there is long line of people waiting to comment, that it is fair that residents be permitted to speak first.  Regardless of the union, TENIG, TEEA, etc. I am of the opinion that the union president representing his/her members should be permitted to speak at school board meetings, without a ‘residency’ requirement.  I am not saying all the non-resident teachers, custodians, etc. just the presidents, should they be non-residents.

Again, I did not attend the meeting and would certainly appreciate the opinions of other who did attend.  Bottom line for me … I want both sides fairly represented but I don’t like the idea of public ‘dressing-down’ from  either.  Here are Ray’s notes:

The School Board took advantage of the forum offered by tonight’s Board meeting to present their side of the contract negotiations and to outline the details of their three year offer suggested at the last Board meeting.  Unfortunately, perhaps, they felt the need to rebut the TEEA week-end comment that “School board members have not met with us….” with Mr Sultanik recounting a minute by minute list of the emails between him and the union’s Ms Waldie, during which an offer to meet was repeatedly made, and which did in fact lead to a meeting of the parties on August 15th.  At that meeting the Board presented their proposal, to which – according to Sultanik – the TEEA has not officially responded.  There were shouts of “You lie!” or similar from the audience, but Ms Whittaker, not a district resident, was not permitted to speak.

Here’s the essence of the District proposal:

– Freeze matrix, step and column positions for 2 years.  One step and column movement halfway through Year 3

– One time $2,500 bonus for all teachers in Year 2 and one time $1,000 bonus for all teachers on the top step in Year 3

—  Sizable incentives that do not build in recurring expense (use of the fund balance!)

– 189 day calendar in Years 2 and 3, down from the current 191 days

—  Locking in the 2 furlough days (1% salary reduction) in the Fact Finder report

– Two health plans with family coverage with premium share rising from 9-10% to 11-12% in Year 3.  The individual dollar cost for the most expensive plan is projected at $1,743  to $2,531, compared to $1,020 under the current plan.  A $50,000-$60,000 copay pool in Years 2 and 3 if the higher cost healthcare plan can be dropped due to less than half the employees selecting that plan.

— The national average for premium share is 29%

   — There’s a tax provision that allows employees to deduct their premium share, reducing the net cost by their marginal tax rate

– A cap on tuition reimbursement of $150,000 in Years 2 and 3 (compared to $290,000 under the current MOU and $650,000 last year)

– Radnor and Lower Merion have introduced caps on tuition reimbursement

– Prescription copays as in the Fact Finder report

– Demotions allowed for economic reasons in Years 2 and 3

– Settlement of outstanding grievances, particularly re the CHS 6 period day

— If ruled in favor of the union would require the hiring of 12 additional FTE at a cost of $1.2 million a year

Sultanik stated that the deadline for a TEEA response is August 27th at 12 noon.  It’s not clear if that is a mandatory deadline per the law, but it could be, since the process is still under the aegis of the state arbitrator and law does require continuation of the negotiating process.

Art McDonnell presented two slides that provided the current status quo budget/3 year projection and the Fact Finder report.  As presented, the Fact Finder report reduced the Year 1 and 2 deficits by about $300,000, but the year 3 (and 4) deficits increased by the same amount.  He did not show how the latest Board proposal would stack up under the same model, but in response to my question there were general comments from the Board that the deficits would still not be eliminated under likely tax scenarios.  (I think that there may be enough data to model the impact ourselves, and with some time over the next couple of days I’ll take a shot at that, but it will be difficult to account for all the inter-relations of salary, PSERS, etc.)

Ann Crowley and Kris Graham explained their August 9th votes to accept the Fact Finder report largely on the basis of expediency and on the intangible impact of an unsettled contract on home values, teacher stress, need for students to continue to out-perform, and so on.  Mrs Graham thought there was now benefit to the teachers to get the 3 year deal and so changed her vote tonight, in order to get the parties back to the negotiating table.  Mrs Crowley abstained from voting in protest of the email litany recounted by Mr Sultanik.  Dr Motel reminded the audience that salaries for all other employees have been flat for three years, and at some point increases may need to be found.  President Cruickshank also noted this and the give backs from TENIG employees and separately custodians.   She noted that the Board has to balance the budget and recounted the last three years total of $10 million expense cuts, maximum tax increases and falling real estate assessments.  Remaining options are to cut kindergarten, transportation and extra-curriculars.  She made a plea for “two austere years to right the financial ship”.

The Board voted 8 to 0 with one abstention to reject the Fact Finder report.

The audience seemed to be largely teachers, with little public comment.  Andrea advocated rationalizing the healthcare benefit craziness by providing a defined contribution rather than a Blue Cross-specific defined benefit; another resident supported the Fact Finder report on the basis of retaining qualified teachers and supporting property prices.  ABC News was there, also.

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  1. I was at last night’s School Board meeting. Mr. Sultanik’s detailed account of the weekend’s communication was tedious and inappropriate. I am glad that Mrs. Graham spoke to his unprofessionalism, but there was a message to be delivered. A revised board proposal seems to have been available when the union said there was no movement on the part of the board. Unfortunately, we were not able to hear where the breakdown in communication happened. Had Ms. Whitaker found a township resident to calmly state the rebuttal, instead of charging the podium and lashing out about lies, we may have understood what led her to publish what she did. This was a township meeting and not union meeting. I see no reason to break protocol to let the union make comments. This is a township privilege.

    [Reply]

    cp Reply:

    Correction – it was Mrs. Crowley, not Mrs. Graham who spoke to Mr. Sultanik’s unprofessional message.

    [Reply]

    Had Enough Reply:

    Is Mr. Sultanik a district resident? If not, why should he be permitted to speak at the meeting?? And before you say he works for the board, so do all the employess of T/E school district. It is their names signed at the bottom of the checks.

    [Reply]

    cp Reply:

    Mr. Sultanik is the contract negotiator for the School Board. The topic was the contract negotiations. It was pertinent that he speak about the negotiations. The Business Manager also gets to speak about finances. Mr. Sultanik gave us a lot of good information and I am glad I attended the meeting to hear it. The information could have been delivered in a more concise manner.

    [Reply]

    Had Enough Reply:

    CP- If the topic was contract negotiations and it was pertinent that he speak, shouldn’t you be just as interested to hear what the other side has to say?

    Andrea Reply:

    He did not take the floor. He is a presenter. Again, I encourage the TEEA to open up their meeting to the public. I suspect their inclination would be to limit speakers to members of the TEEA. But regardless, with everyone mad, we’ll get a settlement and nothing will change. And yes — there’s that little thing about a grievance that the District proposal requires to be settled as part of their proposal. Of course it must be, but as Ray’s numbers (and the district proposals) indicate, this does not eliminate deficits. And a reminder — the PSERS number goes up every year through 2020. It is supposed to peak then.

    Again — let’s craft something that allows any growth in the transfer tax to fund concessions…but with the proposal being on budget and not deficit reliant.

    [Reply]

  2. I should note that the apparent TEEA justification of their statement is that “the School Board” as precisely defined indeed has not met with them, just the negotiating team. Sultanik noted that under PA law the Superintendent is considered a School Board member. All of this is reminiscent of the famous Bill Clinton line about Monica Lewinsky.

    [Reply]

  3. The teachers can go into Philadelphia and lose about 30K in pay. I am certain the conditions there are wonderful as well.

    All this “we are going to lose our teachers” is pure nonsense.

    [Reply]

    Pete T. Reply:

    and you can move to Philadelphia, and pay more taxes. I am certain the conditions there are wonderful as well.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    Pete T.. more taxes in Philly? How so? Don’t think so..

    [Reply]

    also FYI Reply:

    Really? Really? You do realize the tax rate in the city on most items purchased is 7% as opposed to 6% in the majority of the state. Maybe you don’t notice when your employer buys your dinner before the Flyers game.

    http://www.phila.gov/revenue/Tax_Types_and_Codes.html

    http://www.tredyffrin.org/finances/

    For your reference. Let me know when you decide to put your house up for sale, as I would be happy to have my kids in the TE school district.

    flyersfan Reply:

    also FYI… the first 1.2 mil takes my house. let me know if you are interested… And I don’t have an employer, although I wish now that I worked for the state or feds…

    John Reply:

    4% wage tax…and AVI on the way…so…

    a Philadelphian making $250,000/year and with a $750,000 home will pay $10,000 in wage tax and $13,500 in property tax (approx 1.8%)…plus 8% sales tax…and you probably have to put your children in private school ($20-30K per year/per child for anything decent)…

    Now, if you’d prefer to make $40,000 a year, live in a 1000 sqft rowhome with NO grass/lawn, don’t mind parking your car a block away every time you take the car out, pay outrageous car insurance rates, and aren’t concerned about your kids getting beat up every day on the way home from Catholic school (your best and cheapest non-public option)…

    yeah…then Philly can be a tax bargain.

    MD Reply:

    Why would I do that when I am perfectly happy here? What is your point? The teachers won’t leave. You know it, I know and they know it.

    [Reply]

  4. The union decides who goes to the table on their side — and the district makes a comparable decision. I said elsewhere on this blog that the teachers feel frustrated that the board isn’t meeting with them face to face, but the board are facing $3M in grievance exposure right now, and it would be imprudent for a board member to say anything without a script from a lawyer.

    So — this is now about no one trusting anyone. And both sides are right.

    It’s not the board and the union. It’s the Tredyffrin Easttown School District, and until some of these people starting saying We and mean that whole thing, we’ll get a settlement, maybe even soon, but we won’t have solved a single problem….just ignored it and hoped the economy gets better.

    [Reply]

  5. I think part of the problem is that the teachers think all T/E parents are wealthy. That is deflinitely not the case. The teachers also don’t have any sense of what those of us in the “real world” are facing. Have they ever had to get an HMO referral or not been able to be treated by the best doctors because those doctors don’t accept HMO patients? Have they ever experienced a job loss, or worried about having to work until they’re 75? Have they ever had to pay thousands of dollars to cover daycare for their kids during summer vacations and school holidays? My guess is not. Many of us in T/E are struggling to stay afloat here. I think the teachers just see the very affluent PTO parents who either don’t have to work or are high up enough in their companies that they can take time off during the day. I hope that any T/E teachers reading this realize that while we value them, many T/E parents and familes are struggling to stay afloat in these tough economic times.

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    Amanda,

    You make a good point – but it is not only parents who are not necessarily wealthy. We should also mention that most of the taxpayers (about 80 percent) do not have kids in our schools. The 80 percent includes many people who may not be very affluent right now, including some senior citizens.

    It is true generally that people who live in our district are fairly affluent relative to others living in less desirable and expensive areas. But it would be a mistake to assume that all or even most te taxpayers are willing and able to absorb the cost of the union’s proposals.

    [Reply]

    CJ of the Main Line Reply:

    Although 70-80% of the tax payers do not have any children in the school system, many of them DID have a child or many children go through the system at one point. When they were sending students through, they relied on the tax base of the 100% to pay for their child’s education.

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    Cj – your point is well taken. This is an argument I have used when voting for a tax increase.

    John Reply:

    Amanda…respectfully…teachers pay for daycare just like everyone else…and as most teachers are likely in two-earner households…so their spouses are in the same economy you are describing…worrying about their private sector jobs and at what age they can retire.

    [Reply]

  6. We are going to lose some teachers — and we’ll hire new ones. We have long since advocated to teachers and whomever that you should do what you love — but not lose sight of why you do it. You pay bills unless you work for fun.
    Somehow the legend of teaching is that you do it because you love to teach, but you cannot expect to make any money. Ask the guy behind the toll booth if he loves what he does…and what he makes. Life is about choices — and if you do not like teaching in TESD, you should not be doing it. That is not teacher bashing. Our teachers look at other districts and see what they have — and think they are being cheated. They rarely recognize what they have here. No doubt states with a state contract don’t go through this. 501 school districts in Pennsylvania provides local control, but also 501 siblings all looking next door and seeing what they have that you don’t. They shared last night that last year, TESD spent $650,000 on tuition reimbursements, while neighboring districts have caps much lower than that number. They have what their contract has.

    What you have is a job in the profession you have chosen. If you want to make more money, and are sure you can, you should go do it. Having friends making more money is false jealousy. Those friends better save a lot of money, because unless they are teachers or municipal workers, they won’t have pensions. So it’s a trade off. And it’s one that the employee makes. ALL ALONE. Hoping your union can turn your job into one you want is not fair to the rest of us. It’s the job you have. Market forces will fill empty holes, and if the district cannot find good candidates, they will increase the pay to the point where they can. Again, market forces will dictate that.

    Amanda — your comments are so important. Because you are right. For some reason, our teachers with an average salary of $82,000, along with $40,000+ in benefits, pension contributions, sick days, and FICA/Mcare contributions think the rest of us have it easy. They think long hours are unique to the under appreciated teacher.

    There are ways to solve this, but it requires erasing history to move forward. No one wants to do that. No one wants to give up what they have on the table. The problem, as I have said before, is that teachers bargain with their base salary and the value of their health care benefits. Period.

    Based on PSERS contributions on behalf of the employee to their pension, here is what the taxpayers of PA and TE contribute on behalf of one employee (the district pays the whole thing and the state, up until now and hopefully into the future – splits it), making $86,400.
    Pension contribution
    2011-12 $7,473.60
    2012-13 $10,679.04
    2013-14 $14,472.00
    2014-15 $18,360.00
    2015-16 $22,083.84
    2016-17 $22,688.64
    2017-18 $23,155.20
    2018-19 $23,785.92
    2019-20 $24,226.56
    2020-21 $23,984.64
    2021-22 $23,829.12

    In short, for the next four years, this employee, even if wages were frozen at $86,400, would require $3K+ more each year as a pension contribution. Where is that number in the negotiating? No where. Where is that number in reality? Increasing expenses. Over the 10 years, this same employee — with a wage freeze — would have “earned” $214,738.56 of tax dollars required for their pension and they do not recognize that anywhere in the union calculations. (and just for fun, remember that same time period would have required district contributions of $231K for fica/medicare).

    I’ll say it again — it’s not what they make, it’s what they cost. And to negotiate a settlement that works for all sides, we need to attack the cost process. Health care under the most dire proposal will cost this district $20M on salaries of $55M 4 years from now (projection). THAT is not sustainable, because it’s the only thing we can get cheaper without altering or dismantling our program.

    [Reply]

  7. An average salary of 82K is over 20K more than I make–and I’ve been working nonstop for 20 years. Add to that the 40K in healthcare benefits, pensions, etc.–wow. I picked the wrong profession. Honestly, back in the 1970s teaching was a lower paid profession but now it is one of the highest paid in terms of overall compensation in districts like T/E. Please, teachers, we ALL work long hours… and we don’t get summers off. Please understand that it is 2012 and not 1970, and that your contract needs to reflect that. I can’t afford to spend the next 40 years paying your pensions!

    [Reply]

    Pete T. Reply:

    An average salary of 82K is over 20K more than you make…okay. Well some teachers make more than that 82K but that also means that some make less than 82K. Not every teacher has a compensation plan of 40k or whatever number is being thrown out.,,

    Are you the highest paid person in your field, your position, or company? If not, that means that some people make more than you and some people make less than you in your place of employment.

    Does your position require a college degree, a certification, and a certain number of continuing education credits? Is your line of work one in demand?

    In your other post on another entry, you say you want the teachers to realize that not everyone in TE is rich, and that many have to scrape to get by, or that the teachers never had to experience hardship, etc etc. Well every teacher is not rich, every teacher isn’t able to get by easily, teachers pay taxes too, pay for childcare, work long hours….just like everyone else….you can’t take your specific experiences and then generally compare it to a whole group of people. You don’t know each and every one of them, how they grew up, what hardships they had to face, how they got to where they are today. Did some have it easy their whole life…yes! Did some have it hard…yes! That’s life, everywhere you look, every town, every walk of life…its a mixed bag.

    My point is that everyone on here tries to make it personal, because you are suffering or because you face cuts or because your healthcare plan is not as good, you want other people to suffer and face cuts or have worse healthcare. That’s not a good way to think or approach life. Everyone keeps telling their hardships, and then follows it up with teacher bashing and they want for them to just give up what they have right now. We all know that the contract needs to change….if you look at all the proposals….they are never asking for a lot more in any area, they have already agreed to many things that reduce their total compensation. What do you expect….them to just say…sure cut my pay by $4,000 or make a major change to my healthcare plan…you know…all because I work for a school district…would you do that without question, just because….no…and if you say yes….you’re lying…you are one of the same people who would say that if they were a professional athlete they would play for their hometown team, take less money. or only play for what they need to live comfortable, and not take 10 million dollars so your team can save money….everybody says that, but would they really do it…no…and we see it time and time again.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    ok Pete T… lets keep it non personal.

    The teachers compensation needs to be cut. Big time. We cant afford it, vis a vis revenues/expenses.
    The days of wine are roses are over, at least for this negotiation period. Its just about the bottom line.

    And the teachers, they make it personal.. Maybe you are one, or a parent. I am a parent, and I can’t tell you how many times at open school night the teacher gets up in front of the parents and says how lucky or fortunate or happy they are to be in TE.. Why? compensation? maybe. Work environment? you bet. parent SUPPORT? you bet… thats personal

    [Reply]

    Pete T. Reply:

    What do you expect them to say….I hate working with your kids and te sucks?

    new post-er Reply:

    Pete,

    The private sector is cutting jobs, not giving mert raises or bonuses. Corporations and small businesses alike are consolidating entire departments to keep from going under. In the private sector, employees don’t have unions or contracts to rely on. The starting wage of a teacher, without experience is much higher than would be found in the private sector, and would take a private sector employee as long as five years to reach.

    Thank-you to T Reader, Keith, Ray and Andrea for your reasoned, logical, well thought out posts.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    Cmon pete they don’t have to say anything, and not everytime and not as effusive…

    MD Reply:

    Not personal at all. It is math.

    [Reply]

    new post-er Reply:

    Pete,

    Private sector jobs pay for public sector jobs. Public sector pay and benefits have been rising at a faster rate than private sector pay for quite some time. This cannot continue. It is unsustainable. Many jobs in the private sector (held by people with advanced degrees and training) pay less and require more hours than teaching jobs in TE. All of these jobs in the private sector come with less vacation time and less benefits.

    The economy is tanking. Drive down Lancaster Avenue and observe all the empty buildings that used to produce tax revenue. We just lost another big employer in Chesterbrook.

    Teachers across the country and in this area are offering to accept lower pay in the form of salary rollbacks. Please read about the Council Rock school District in Bucks County. The teachers recognize what a great situation they are in and they recognize they are lucky to have employment.

    As T. Reader writes, it is not about what we give the teachers, it is about what the teachers cost. We simply cannot afford the cost of the teachers anymore.

    [Reply]

    kevin Grewell Reply:

    Pete –

    I see your point about over-generalizing. No one should question teachers’ motivation, or speculate on how much hardship teachers have (or do not have) as compared to the “rest of us.” All of that adds nothing to the discussion. For the record, I think good teachers do matter – quality of teachers and teaching is very important to the the success of the district. I also assume that teachers in general have about as much hardship as anyone.

    But the current pressure on teachers and the next contract is unavoidable. Some observations:

    1) Taxpayers have begun to pay keen attention to teacher pay and especially – benefits – much more so than in the past because of the economy. Times have changed, bringing the disparity between private sector benefits and public sector benefits into sharper focus.

    2) Because of this focus, a “political fact” has come into being. Whether taxpayers can afford more taxes or not is debateable, but even if they can afford more, they are not willing to simply pay for the current teacher benefits which are far more generous than benefits available in the private sector.

    3) Another political fact is that PA is the second “grayest” state after Florida, and seniors VOTE. Whether you agree with them or not, many seniors think property taxes are unreasonable and have pressured the legislature to do something about it, resulting in ACT 1 of 2006.

    4) Act 1 caps the districts taxing authority. When the economy tanked, real estate transfer taxes declined. The two factors together mean that the district CANNOT RAISE THE REVENUE needed to sustain the staus quo, let alone give any increases to the teachers in the next contract. This is true even using the allowable maximum Act 1 tax increases.

    5) Another political fact is that ballot referendums to tax over the Act 1 limit are very likely to fail in T/E. Likewise efforts to enact an EIT. Given the behavior of our local political comitties in the last election (particularly the Republicans), I submit that this is another political fact which cannot be dismissed. Even the very idea to STUDY an EIT was too much . . . . . . (if I were still on the board I would have to think long and hard about coming out in favor of an EIT or an Act 1 referendum. To do so might mean getting crushed in the next election, handing my seat over to some radical anti-tax candidate who would be much worse for the kids- someone who would not even support taking the allowable Act 1 taxes and thus would cut the program even more)

    6) If an affordable contract cannot be achieved, the cuts will come out of the children – higher class sizes, fewer programs and course offerings, services, etc.

    So it is nothing personal. It is not “anti-teacher”. With all due respect to our many fine teachers (which respect is considerable) I submit the statements above are simply facts which now exist and must be dealt with. Personally, I don’t like it any more than you do.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    Kevin I believe that our school board in 2006 was against Act 1 and implored the citizens to tell their representatives. They knew what kind of havoc it would create, not withstanding the decision to raise taxes or not, generally. Certainly Act 1 caps the revenue.

    new post-er Reply:

    Kevin

    Your points are well taken and continue to get the same message across. Thank-you.

    Township Reader Reply:

    Thanks Kevin. Extraordinarily well said.

    Can I add for emphasis that beyond the benefits, we have a community that regardless of their income level can typically not plan for a retirement, because no matter how much you save, without a pension, there is no way to generate enough money to live in even a semi-comparable lifestyle. If I had $3,000,000 in the bank, I could only generate $30,000 without putting my principal at risk. Teachers not only retire, they count down to retire. That’s their privilege because they get a defined pension.

    Okay. That’s the deal. But they MUST come to terms with the fact that we cannot afford to give them raises AND fund their pension for the next 10 years. And for every year they work, their pension goes up 2.5% even if they never get another raise….but when you are 40 and have friends making $150,000….all you see is what they buy — not what their future looks like.
    Sigh.

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    Flyersfan – you remember correctly. We all opposed act 1. Not only because it capped taxing authority without doing anything to help school districts control costs, but also because it was complicated and poorly drafted, introducing a whole host of other problems.

    Township Reader Reply:

    Aug 22 12:40 am Pete said:

    >>Does your position require a college degree, a certification, and a certain number of continuing education credits? Is your line of work one in demand?<<

    Pete– flaw in your analysis. Jobs are in demand….not teachers. Market forces not in play and movement between districts is minimal. IF merit pay was in play, that might be somewhat helpful to the notion of setting the bar

    [Reply]

  8. Time for some arithmetic, if anyone’s interested.

    Using the data in the district document, I tried to model the impact of their 3 year proposal. I had to make a lot of assumptions, but I take some comfort from the match between my model and the district numbers from last night when applied to the Fact Finder Report. However, the conclusions are only useful for direction and perhaps as a cross check on other data and statements.

    Versus the status quo, the Fact Finder report reduces the deficit by $300,000 to $400,000 in the first two years, and worsens it by $100,000 to $200,000 in the next two years. (District numbers, my model has slightly bigger numbers for the short term benefit, maybe because for simplicity I assume that everyone picks the cheaper health plan).

    Versus the status quo in my model, the District proposal reduces the deficit by $1 to $2 million in each of the first three years, and by $0.5 million if extended to a fourth year (when the full year of salary increases would kick in)

    In comparison, on the revenue side, the district stands to lose $1 million next year from recent assessment appeals; a 3% tax increase is worth about $3 million.

    Adding all the above to the status quo deficits of $1 million rising to $13 million over the next four years, shows that even with maximum 3% annual tax increases the district proposal reins in but does not eliminate the deficits. This supports the comments made by Board members last night.

    I think that the teachers might be well advised to take their $1.25 million signing bonus (not included in my deficit model) before the community wakes up to the fact that this deal still leaves us in for year after year of grinding at the budget.

    [Reply]

    cp Reply:

    Thanks for running the new numbers, Ray. Every way you look at it, it is a grim picture. Is there any way to get the Board to revise to a more austere proposal? I’m not asking for the specific items to be in a new proposal. I’m asking if there is any way to pressure the Board to only offer a contract that can be funded by a budget that can be balanced through the term of the contract (barring more catastrophic economic events)? Another question – is the Board being imprudent with their fiduciary responsibility by entering into a contract that is longer than 1 year, given the unstable transfer tax, reassessment, and capped real estate tax factors?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    CP — my answer. Yes, the board is being imprudent. They are offering up a meager solution for all the reasons Anne Crowley abstained….because they don’t want labor unrest on their watch. But if you understand the numbers, as I know you do, then the only way to end this is to demote and cut our way to a balanced budget….and hope that the economy does rebound and transfer taxes rise to fill in the hole.
    My boring rant continues: we have to change the model. Defined contribution for health care. Let the PSEA negotiate a price with Blue Cross on behalf of all their state employees….whatever the district spent on teacher premiums,reduce it by 20% and freeze it forever and divide by the number of workers. That’s the contribution. Make the PSEA the consumer.

    [Reply]

    Franny Ryan Reply:

    I agree with Andrea. We need defined contribution for health care. I do not think that we should hope the economy rebounds — we need to be much more realistic. The economy is in very very bad shape and it is not getting better any time soon. Any multi-year contract should be based on projecting continued contraction and lower tax revenues. Why not cut compensation, but agree to bonuses based on actual tax revenue increases, if any?

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Ray,
    I’d be interested to see your budget analysis.
    efficienteducation@verizon.net
    .
    When I did my contract costing analysis a month or so ago it looked like the status quo cost for teachers was under 2% per year – a figure that would be affordable with Index plus exception tax increases – if the assessment base remains fairly constant and the other 50% of expenditures grow less than the Index.
    .
    I’m trying to understand the disconnect. It may be the assumptions built into each projection.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    I’m sending it over, Keith. Use with care, of course!

    Key points:
    – It starts from the “Status Quo” modeled by the District, which has the deficit rising to $13 million by 2015/16. A large driver of this is the assumed increase in healthcare costs. This suggests one avenue for the union: to the extent that these costs increase at a slower rate (which they can influence), maybe they could bargain for a share in the savings in subsequent years?
    – I consider only the costs that are discussed in the District “3 year proposal” document. Thus the impact of changes to other disputed items (for example, full dental and vision coverage) is not considered.
    – Since my last post I altered
    1) the assumption about tuition reimbursement, which increases the deficit reduction in Year 4 of the District plan to $1 million, and
    2) the assumption that it would not be administratively feasible to use the half day scattered furloughs in the Fact Finder report, which if used benefits that model by $400,000. This last means that my agreement with the District projection is worse – now off by about that $400,000. This could easily be the result of my assumption about the 100% choice of the C4F4 plan. That would not be too hard to check.

    The bottom line remains that the District is still in a very tough spot unless assessments rebound, or more state and federal aid is forthcoming. Perhaps the PSEA strategy is to force the latter.

    I’ll be interested in any errors or improvements you can find.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Ray. All good information.
    The district will remain in a tough spot because assessments are fairly dysfunctional in PA.
    http://www.rural.palegislature.us/county_reassessment_2010.pdf
    This was written in 2010, but to my knowledge nothing has changed.

    Note this: [ However, where the lack of uniformity is pervasive throughout a county, the Pennsylvania courts
    have intervened and mandated countywide reassessments.] There was a county wide assessment in Chester County ordered by the courts in 1998.

    Easy explanation of that process :
    http://www.lgc.state.pa.us/deskbook06/Issues_Taxation_and_Finance_01_RE_Assessment_Process.pdf

    My point — assessments do not rebound. Sales might, and therefore the most notable recovery number will come from the transfer tax revenue.

    Note that the district can appeal an underassessed property, but the last time I heard this discussed, the state was proposing to take any “windfall revenue” from any successful assessment appeal? (Which is what Act 1 was all about)

  9. Ummm, haven’t you heard of the city wage tax?

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    yes I have heard of wage tax. how does that compare to real estate taxes in Tredyffrin? I think that was my point… or question…

    [Reply]

    hmm Reply:

    TE is at the bottom maybe 10% of the state for real estate taxes, which has been discussed in this blog. Easily available and published in the Phila Inquirer each year.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    Why is it relevant? We are very happy here. Why should we leave? Our point is that the teacher’s, or the vast majority of them, will not leave because the deal they have and the conditions they work under are much better than the other places where job openings are aplenty.

    Why are people trying to shift this to residents leaving? Makes no sense.

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    hmm,
    You are being misled by the Low Millage Rate Myth. I think you are trying to tell us that the cost of home ownership is low in TE compared to other districts. (and so there is plenty of room to raise taxes to pay for teacher compensation increases) Millage rates are a meaningless measure of a TE resident’s cost of home ownership. Please read and comment on this article.
    The Low Millage Rate Myth
    http://www.efficienteducation.org/Capitalization%20and%20tax%20rates%20R2.doc

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Keith, thanks for this article — I will add it to CM for the morning post.

    Had Enough Reply:

    Wow Keith, I find it interesting that with everyone crying poor economy you chose to use an asking price of $750,000 for a house in T/E…and they all sold right away!! I am pretty sure that regardless of how this contract turns out, none of those home are being bought by teachers. And yes, I know you are just giving an example of a model to show how millage rates are a myth. Just stating that it is interesting you chose to sell homes not affordable to most of us.

    new post-er Reply:

    Had,

    The average price of a house in TE is way less than $750,000. In many communities, buying power of it’s members spans a large range.

    You are upset because teachers can’t afford a $750,000 house? Most members of a community, including this one, cannot either.

    I find the notion that teachers should make a salary high enough to support a $750,000 home interesting. Amassing wealth has replaced teaching as a noble occupation.

    Many teachers, including the new hires, make way more money than comparable counterparts in the private sector while also enjoying more benefits and better healthcare. And people in the private sector are happy, grateful and satisfied to have employment in this wretched economy.

    Had Enough Reply:

    wow new post-er, way to take someone’s words and turn them into something completely different. I didn’t make up the 750K number, Keith did. I I don’t think teachers should be able to afford it, simply stated they can’t. I found it interesting that this was the number he chose to use when he easily could have used the median number. My point was that HE (Keith) seems to think 750K homes have no problem selling in TE

    John Reply:

    read about AVI and how property (school) taxes in Phila will go up 200-300%.

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    and I believe the $750,000 number was thrown out there because that was the price that Knauss threw out there for the TE/Unionville comparison.

    As for wanting a $750k house…why would ANYONE want that mortgage payment?!?!?

    [Reply]

  10. The article states that Dr. Motel points out that the admins have been frozen for the last three years. Hell… If I am making 130-170K per year you could freeze my salary for life.

    Karen C. Noted that the custodians gave back…yes they did, so as not to have their work outsourced and lose their job. That’s applauded by the board, but they don’t applaud the fact that the teachers gave up half a years raise last year to protect just a few teachers from losing their jobs. How is that different? Why does one deserve praise and the other ignored?

    [Reply]

    CHV Reply:

    Last year during the budget process the district “lauded” the teachers union for the give back and ignored the custodians. The big difference is the fact that the PUBLIC came out in droves and supported the custodians.

    [Reply]

    SupportStaff Reply:

    Pete, the difference is that the teachers still got their raise-in January. The custodians along with the cafeteria help and all the secretaries NEVER got their raise at all. Their pay has been frozen at the rate they were being paid in 2010/11. All these workers agreed to this freeze to keep our custodial staff from being outsourced. At the time, we were told the teachers were “on board” with us in saving the custodians. We found out after the fact, that they had made their own deal to get their pay frozen for only half the year in exchange for no demotions unbeknownst to anyone in TENIG (the support staff union)and they forgot all about saving our custodians. So excuse me if I don’t feel any compassion for their plight. The custodians have taken it a step further saying they would take a 10% pay REDUCTION just to keep their jobs. We have the same car payments, electric bills, mortgage payments, etc. that the teachers do. We make less money.We are a realistic group of people and know how lucky we are to still have jobs at all in this economy. Oh, and the vast majority of us do not receive ANY health insurance benefits at all. Shame on all of us for not having the means to get a college education. Teaching is a hard job, agreed. But without a strong support staff keeping the heater running, someone answering the phone, feeding all the children, the School Board supplying them with everything they could want or need and an enormous amount of dedicated parents helping in the classroom so they can do their job to the best of their ability we would be no different than any other inner-city school. It “takes a village” and the teachers are only one part.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    A powerful post. Should be required reading for all involved, or interested, in the District and current negotiations.

    [Reply]

    Pete T. Reply:

    If I recall correctly, tenig and the custodians had already made a deal and the custodians jobs were saved before the Teea had even come to their agreement so that betrayal story doesn’t sound right.

    You are right the support staff is extremely important, but your positions are different than theirs are, and I mean no disrespect by this, they have to have a degree and certification to even get their job ( and for others to get their job), while the support staff, custodians,,and secretaries don’t. You don’t have as much bargaining power. You had to agree to what you did to keep all your jobs, and they had to do what they did to keep their jobs, it just happened to be different (also numbers wise, the dollar amount they lost most likely exceeded the dollar amount you lost). Either way you shouldn’t make it personal that you lost more, that’s what the board wants and is trying to use that in their favor, and I don’t think that’s fair…I am just tired of the he said she said from both sides…

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    Pete, yes they have a degree. Degreed professionals in a union… um.. hockey anyone? sounds like an oxymoron.. Well soon enough the MD’s, soon to be wards of the federal government, will be in a union too

    new post-er Reply:

    You are right supportstaff. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.

    [Reply]

    Pete T. Reply:

    “Shame on all of us for not having the means to get a college education.”

    So you are saying because they are teachers they had the means to a college education?

    Not every teacher, heck, not everybody that earns a degree has the means to do…most don’t….that’s what financial aide and student loans are for…you take out loans to get a degree that will hopefully lead to a career. As you career grows…you pay back your loans. My family did not have the means to send me to colllege for what I wanted to do, or my sister, but they did…and we spent a long time paying those loans back-it was worth it in the long run.

    [Reply]

  11. Pattye,

    I feel the following from your earlier post of May 2, 2012 “PA School District’s Financial Problems . . .” says it all.

    Comment from ‘Damage Control’

    T/E Budget Crisis Solved!
    Move to Haiti. Yes, you’re reading this correctly— move to Haiti. Students, teachers, administrators, board and taxpayers – move to Haiti! … where they use rags as soccer balls, bicycle rims for basketball nets, parking not an issue. Teachers get paid $5,000 per school year, administrators reap $7,000 and yes, like all the other districts, the superintendent makes $10 worth of stogies (not stoga’s). Best of all, UNICEF and the Salvation Army “underwrites” the entire school system!
    School board, what nerve you have in asking non-profit organizations to help with a bailout. I am not a teacher nor do I have children in attendance. I’m just an old taxpayer who sees the “writing on the wall” with this school board and this particular cost savings “strategy” is one of the reasons that prompted me to write this piece.
    How dare you! How dare you ask non-profits for a handout when you have $30 million in reserve! You say this reserve money is set aside for rainy day issues, sick day payments, retirement, etc.—Total BS and I don’t mean in a masters or PhD degree sense! How dare you ask these non-profits when your net worth far exceeds any amount these local non-profits could attain even if they all pull together!
    Aretha Franklin sang about RESPECT, Rodney Dangerfield got more. You, the board, gave NO respect to Ms. Whittaker, the TEEA president at the last school board meeting. Granted, you announced and stressed at the meeting that only TE residents could speak—a.k.a.—allowed to be heard. Excuse me? Is Dr. Waters a resident? He speaks at school board meetings and he commutes from a different time zone!!! And, by the way, who pays for his gas—TE resident tax payers do! A TE resident voiced that the TEEA president be heard—you board, denied that request. By denying Ms. Whittaker the 1st amendment right of every American, you fired the “first shot” deep into the bowels of the TEEA ship.
    Am I just blowing smoke? Don’t think so. Threats of cutting family coverage without ability to purchase such coverage, demoting top educated and experienced teachers, over-crowded classrooms, etc. will only bring together teachers, students, parents and the many news cameras and media to every school in this top-notch and one of the richest school districts in America come this September. Lines drawn, let the battle begin—what a shame! There will be no winners.

    [Reply]

    a concerned citizen Reply:

    I agree there will be no winners – but right now, the only losers are the students.

    Again, it is math. The board has no additional sources of revenue right now. The costs are increasing exponentially. The tax raises DO NOT pay for the increases in the teacher contract.

    I’ve seen the following cuts:
    – increased class size (at all grades)
    – cutting of FLES (elementary school)
    – cutting of part of foreign language program in MS
    – activity fees for students
    – parking fees for students
    – Applied Tech being cut for elementary students
    – Aids and Assistants reduced in number and hours
    – reduced program offering (HS classes cut)
    – MS losing content (ie. Family Consumer Science and Tech Ed)

    The teachers DEFERRED a pay RAISE for 6 months – at the end of the day, they still got their raise. They didn’t give it up, they deferred it!

    It looks like students are taking the cuts. How much more can be cut to pay for this high paid premium healthcare plan ?

    [Reply]

    TE Observer Reply:

    By what math do you come up with the idea that the teachers didn’t give up anything when they deferred raises for 6 months last year? Yes, they eventually got the raise in pay rate halfway through the year, but they never got the money they would’ve had in the first half of the year had they not agreed to defer the raises. They were contracted to be paid x amount plus whatever the raise was. They were contracted to get the raise amount for the whole year. The instead only got the raise amount for half the year, meaning they didn’t get the raise amount for the other half. We can debate all day about what is the proper compensation amount for teachers, but to deny the fact that they gave money back, and in large amounts. Someone had estimated that the salary raise deferral saved the district a one time amount of $2.5M – how is that not real? And with about 436 actual teachers, that comes out to more than $5k per teacher that they could’ve had, and instead gave up in negotiations. Considering that we, as district taxpayers, refuse to consider an EIT or other forms of taxation that are common elsewhere (there are 467 districts, out of 500, who have total tax rates higher than we have, and we are a top 10 district in terms of income so obviously we have it, tax burden-wise, much much better than almost anywhere in the state), it’s a bit disingenious to say that the teachers have sacrificed nothing. Clearly the teachers, students, and parents of students are sacrificing a lot. I’d argue that it’s the other taxpayers, those enjoying one of the lowest tax rates in the state and not directly involved in the schools are the ones who are not sacrificing.

    [Reply]

    a concerned citizen Reply:

    It was a DEFERRAL.

    from Main Line Media News:

    “and after the first six months of the 2011-12 year, the salaries will advance to the normal schedule.”

    At the end of the year, they still received the same amount had there been no deferral.

    The savings was about $1 million per that article.
    again, to quote,
    “The pay waiver will save the district about $1 million, but TEEA noted that it is a one-time cost savings”

    The savings was based on the time value of money and nowhere close to $5k per teacher that you claim.

    Tha tax rates versus another school district is not a fair comparison, because I think you will agree that housing costs are higher in T/E. So, while the % is lower, the base is higher – compared to other districts.

    EIT is not an option on the table right now. Neither is increasing the tax rate greater than the allowed amount.

    Cuts over the last few years:
    – Students
    – Aids and Support staff
    – Custodians have seen cuts

    DEFERRED a RAISE?
    – teachers

    See an inconsistency?

    Pete T. Reply:

    concerned…you are still not understanding…deferred still means they gave back money that was supposed to be in their pocket.

    They were contracted, and in the contract…if they were supposed to get a $3,000 raise the next year, the only got 1/2 of what they were supposed to receive…$1500. Giving back $1500 is no small matter.

    Deferred just means they were not paid at the raise rate for the first 6 months, and then they were for the second…they still gave up 1/2 the raise they were contracted to receive…which in some cases was thousands of dollars.

    Pete T. Reply:

    also concerned…

    sad truth is that where do you expect the cuts to start? If they want to save the programs, which they need the teachers to teach…they are going to try to find money somewhere else.

    The teachers giving back 1/2 of their raise not only kept their jobs safe, it allowed the budget to be balanced, which prevented further cutbacks. If they didnt give that money back…2.5 million (which they didnt have to because they were under contract), more aides, support staff, etc would have been cut!

    a concerned citizen Reply:

    Pete,

    It wasn’t $2.5 mm, it was $1 mm according to the press release.

    They didn’t get a CUT like everyone else.

    I believe your example is wrong. If they were supposed to get a $3,000 RAISE, instead of getting it in July, they got it 6 months later in January. That was my understanding of the ‘deferral’. (I could be wrong, but I read somewhere, they were still at the contracted levels at the end of the year – which tells me it wasn’t an elimination of the raise, just a deferral of when it occurred).

    Again, they still haven’t had any CUTS like all the other groups out there… did they?

    a concerned citizen Reply:

    Where do I expect the cuts to occur?

    Well, I’ve listed some of them above. Do I believe this will affect the quality of teaching? Yes – hopefully minimally, though. However, they’ve made those to just balance the budget NOW without any of the large increases the union wants. So where should they cut next year? And the year after that? And the year after that?

    That is what really scares me.

    I’ve already seen class size go up, program offerings reduced, student fees increased, and non-teacher personnel take cuts.

    The more important question is where do you see the cuts coming from?

    Had Enough Reply:

    Concerned- It is my understanding that the raises were given at the midway part of the year. Here is how it worked in very simple terms. Take a teacher making $50K in 2010-2011. In 2011-2012 the teachers deferred half the raise they should have gotten on the salary matrix. If they were scheduled to make $54K in 2011-2012 they really made $52K for 2011-2012 because for the first half of the year they were paid based on a salary of 50K while for the second half of the year they were paid based on a salary of 54K.

    Pete T. Reply:

    Had enough, you are correct. Otherwise what’s the point of deferring a raise…if you wait to January and then get all off the money it doesn’t save the district any money or allow them to balance the budget because you are still paying the full amount just over 6 months not 12….

    As your example states if they made 50k, we’re set to make 54k, but only got 52k due to the deferral, that teacher took a 2k pay cut…

    a concerned citizen Reply:

    I was under the impression that at the end of the year, they were where they were supposed to be – which is at the same annual salary.

    So, to use your example, the first 6 months were based on the lower salary, the final 6 months were based on them getting the full amount at the end of the year, so at the end of the year, they still got the $54k, it was just back end weighted.

    Pete, in your 50k example, that teacher didn’t take a pay CUT, because he still made MORE pay than the previous year. He just got 52k instead of 54k, so the RAISE was lower.

    Semantics? Yes, but it gets to the heart of the issue – the teachers haven’t SACRIFICED anything… while every other interested party has.

    Pete T. Reply:

    seriously….is it that hard to comprehend?

    The teacher in our example was due to make $54,000. If nothing changed, if no MOU was reached, they would have made that much money. But in order to balance the budget and prevent demotions, the board and union agreed upon a 1/2 year pay freeze, meaning that for half the year they were paid at the previous years rate, and for half the year they were paid at the rate for this year. They gave back money that WOULD have been in their pocket. Each give back/pay cut was different depending on what step on the matrix the teacher was on.

    No matter how you try to phrase it, if you were supposed to make 54,000 but only made $52,000, you took a pay cut. Every teacher took a pay cut, partially to do their part, and partially to prevent demotions. No matter how you want to work it…its a paycut, its a give back, its a sacrifice…it’s not something they HAD to do, its something they CHOSE to do.

    no impressions or hearsay…that’s what it is and was.

    [Reply]

    a concerned citizen Reply:

    Seriously?

    How is going from 50k to 52k a pay cut?

    You didn’t take any money out of their pockets, in fact, they earned MORE than the previous year…

    how again is that a CUT?

    No matter how you phrase it, they didn’t earn less than the prior year. Therefore, it wasn’t a cut.

    Carla Williams Reply:

    I pray the person who thinks going from 50,000 to 52,000 isn’t teaching my kid math.

    52,000>50,000

    Carla Williams Reply:

    I intended to say … I pray the person who thinks going from 50,000 to 52,000 is a cut isn’t teaching my kid math.

    Guess he could say he hopes I’m not teaching proofreading ;).

    Pete T. Reply:

    It is when you are supposed to make 54k….and don’t. If you sign a 2 year contract and in the first year you are scheduled to make $10 and in the second $20… During the first year, your boss asks you to restructure your contract to CUT expenses. He says if you don’t take the cut I am going to have to let someone go and it could be you. He then restructures your contract so you are only making $15 the second year. So in total you are only making $25 when you were supposed to make $30 during the contract. That’s a $5 pay cut.

    In our example, over two years the teacher was contracted to make 50k & then 54k for a total of 104k. After the restructuring, they made 50k & 52k for a total of 102k. During that contracted time the teacher took a 2k pay cut. That’s exactly what our teachers did.

    I am done with you because if you don’t get it by now you never will…

    MD Reply:

    I do agree with this poster about the goodies given to the Super. That needs to end. The surplus though should not be drained. We have explained why a thousand times here.

    [Reply]

  12. Many people with employment in private industry are subject to personnel policies that prohibit discussing their compensation. There are all kinds of theories on this, some even nefarious. But I think we are seeing played out in real time the damage of knowing what everyone/anyone else makes. Our teachers compare their compensation to other districts, and now we see our support staff feels betrayed by our teachers. Note that TENIG and TEEA are all represented in negotiations by PSEA…nice. People in these jobs look for annual raises, and consider the only issue as to magnitude of the raise.

    Which is why we will get some sort of settlement, but no one will be okay with it, and little will be settled. I recommend you all read a letter to the editor in today’s Main Line Life on health care. I hope the writer follows up by comtacting the TEEA and the board. It is precisely the kind of solution we need, and the only reason it isn’t under consideration is because ALL the players just read from the same script–tweaking but never fixing. Utilizing the same plan options from Independence Blue Cross….

    [Reply]

  13. I can not agree more with the post by Monie. I also have a suggestion that may well calm all you whiners down, and that is — make the District a Charter School District and get rid of all the overpaid teachers and replace them with a whole new staff.
    Also, what are the savings from pure attrition? Did the Board replace retiring and re-locating teachers one for one and then say it is the Union’s fault??
    Reducing starting salaries would be step in the right direction — but no — then the Board and all of you would scream that good teachers are all going elsewhere.
    I also have heard that several teachers have resigned and gone to Radnor and Lower Merion… MMMM

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    That’s called market forces Papadick. Not a single person in any job that I know of is obligated to stay in that job. Google and Microsoft steal each other’s employees all the time. In a for profit world, those two companies can offer to match a salary to keep a great employee. In a union world, absent a state contract, any teacher anywhere is welcome to any opening anywhere if they are qualified, but the district they work in cannot match a competing offer (can for admins — which is why their salaries are market driven completely). The gig in PA is that no matter where they go, they retain pension benefits and tenure…..
    Do you really think this is on taxpayers?
    And the board used to have a starting salary called Step 0, which would allow personnel to hire at a below market rate for someone they wanted to take a shot at — no experience but lots of potential. Union didn’t like that….so the starting salary was a PSEA GOAL OF $50,000 starting in every district.
    Can’t have it every way….both ways….no ways. It is, what it is.

    [Reply]

  14. Pete
    There used to be a poster on here called “give it a rest” — and it’s time for them to materialized.
    No teacher took any kind of cut. They earned less than the contract WOULD have called for had the contract not been modified. They did make $2K less than the initial expectation, but $2K more than status quo.

    I know you understand it, but don’t get angry because your semantics work to make the teachers look like bigger heroes than they were. And they deferred the raise — the whole raise. They may only have gotten half of it, but their new “base” for the status quo period is the $54K……that’s what’s on their paycheck if not their W2.

    And for the record — they didn’t do it to balance the budget. They did it to avoid furloughs. BIG difference. Quid pro quo I believe it’s called. The budget is no where near balanced.

    [Reply]

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