Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Important Decisions Await TESD School Board . . . Finance Committee Meeting Date Changed . . . EIT vs PIT . . .Teacher Contracts . . . Many issues, where does this leave the taxpayers?

Community Matters has been focused on Mt. Pleasant and sidewalks lately, but I think it is probably time to re-focus attention on TESD and the 2010-11 budget. The Finance Committee Meeting has been changed from April 12 to April 19, 7:30 PM at Conestoga HS, please note the change. Click here for the District’s update on the March 22 School Board Meeting.

At the District Budget Meeting held earlier this month, there was EIT vs. PIT (Earned Income Tax vs. Personal Income Tax) discussion. School Board member Debbie Bookstaber asked whether a PIT could be considered under Act 511 – a personal income tax that taxes all income, earned and unearned with social security and pension income exempt. Debbie was a member of the Tax Study Commission and sees the PIT as a fairer tax if an income-based tax were adopted. It was agreed there would be follow-up information provided at the April 19 Finance Committee Meeting. I wonder if the District solicitor has weighed in on the discussion. Here are some questions that might generate discussion:

  • Can the school district impose a PIT on the residents?
  • Does Act 511 permit the District imposing PIT?
  • Would imposing PIT require voter referendum?
  • Would the imposition of PIT reduce property taxes?
  • Is a voter referendum required for EIT?
  • If there was an EIT, how would the split of revenue work between Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships?
  • Does an EIT reduce the property tax bill?
  • Would both townships be required to have an EIT in place to receive the revenue? Or, would the townships receive their portion of the school district’s EIT revenue?
  • Would there be a difference to the teacher unions in regards to an EIT or PIT?

Remember, the TESD 2010-11 budget has a substantial deficit — salaries and escalating pensions and health care benefits are driving the expenses upwards. The District has some hard decisions to make about these current and future District benefits. I recently received an email from Malvern resident Ray Clarke, which offers interesting information:

” . . In many NJ school districts the unions have accepted salary freezes and contributions to health benefits costs. The Governor has piled on, calling on unions in all districts to do so. At the state level the NJEA is resisting the call, framing Christie as “the rich man’s governor” because he is not imposing a surtax on incomes over $400,000. Locally, though, 64% of districts are talking to their teachers about re-opening contracts, while nearly all the rest are at the end of contracts and negotiating new ones. . . “

  • Where does our School Board stand on the issue of the teacher’s contract?
  • Should the TEEA (Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association) teachers union be asked to help with the budget resolution?
  • Has the TEEA made formal suggestions to the School Board on ways to help reduce teacher-related expenses?
  • What about the state, . . . does the Governor have an obligation to the school districts and their residents?
Share or Like:


Add a Comment
  1. Good for NJ.. We should do the same. Why is it that when crunches come, the sugardaddy of all sugardaddies, the taxpayers always are the ones who take the hit?

    We are headed on a downward spiral locally, statewide and nationally. I imagine once we are bled out, the government will just print play money it uses to distribute as it sees fit.

  2. Thanks for keeping the school district on your radar screen, Pattye. Your post should be required reading for the TESD team preparing the EIT /PIT review for the Finance Committee meeting. Maybe the delay is to ensure that all your questions will be answered, plus more like:

    – Does the rate have to be the same for both townships?
    – What are the options for splitting the revenues between townships and school district, and does the split have to be the same in each township?
    – What is the exact nature of the reciprocity arrangements with neighboring jurisdictions, particularly Philadelphia
    – What will be the estimated financial impact to townships and school district, under various likely scenarios of rate and split, on the following dimensions:
    a) Incremental taxes paid by township residents
    b) Taxes currently paid by township residents to other municipalities that will stay in T/E
    c) Taxes paid by non-residents
    d) The total of the above

    Sorry, more questions and no answers, but I think we do need the expert analysis!

    1. Ray
      I hope you send these questions TO the board — they have an email address. Posting them here is not adequate to ensure it is addressed. We can contemplate all kinds of issues, but information will only come as a response to a formal request. I appreciate the thought you are putting into this. The nature of your questions hopefully informs the public just how complex this topic is. For me — one source of revenue is enough — but this community has to come to terms with what we are willing to pay for versus what we are expecting to receive.

  3. The PSEA is too strong to interest any governor or governor-wannabe to speak up. Remember — PA is ranked 4th in teachers salaries (adjusted for cost) and is first in teachers strikes.

  4. Not sure if anyone else noticed this item in the 3/22 update re Deb Ciamacca, TEEA President –

    “Leaves of Absence for Professional Development in Accordance with Policy 4610
    Deborah Ciamacca, teacher, CHS, effective for the 2010-2011 school year ”

    I’m wondering if she would continue in her TEEA role while on leave, or will there be a change in leadership there?

    1. Mike — I did notice Ms. Ciamacca’s leave of absence. Wonder exactly what is a ‘leave of absence for professional development in accordance with policy 4610’? Do you know, just curious. I’m assuming that this leave of absence is without pay, but that her job is held. Is that a correct assumption? And will she remain as union president of the teachers? Is a union position as president for a set term? again, just curious.

      1. Policy 4610
        Leaves of Absence for Professional Development

        Leaves of Absence for Professional Development shall be granted to professional employees in accordance with applicable law and contracts. The Board reserves the right to establish conditions for approval of Leaves of Absence for Professional Development consistent with applicable law.

        To be eligible for Leaves of Absence for Professional Development, an employee shall have completed ten (10) years of satisfactory service in the public schools of the Commonwealth; at least five (5) consecutive years of such service shall be in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District. Subsequent to the first compensated leave under either this Policy or under Policy 4600 (Sabbatical Leave for Restoration of Health), one compensated leave shall be allowed after each seven full years of service. The Board of School Directors reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to waive the eligibility requirements.

        The policy in full is on the website — all district policies are online.

        This would not be without pay. I believe sabbatical leaves are at 50% pay and full benefits, and are perfectly in accordance with state and district policy.

        By the way — the administrators retirement plan is completely based on them not taking advantage of this once they are admins….the clock for “years in the job” starts to run after any time off…

        1. Sarah — Thanks. Interesting information. I wonder if the District limits how many people take sabbaticals per year? If the sabbaticals are with 50% pay & benefits, the District would have to factor those people on leave in to their budget. I would assume that a long-term substitute for the year would be hired for those teachers on sabbaticals. I wonder if the budget crunch has the School Board looking at the sabbitical applications more closely. Or, maybe there are not that many teachers per year on sabbatical to make a significant impact to the budget.

  5. Pattye:

    Like you, I don’t know what Ms. Ciammacca’s leave of absence will mean. Maybe someone will enlighten us ;).

  6. Have heard that she will resign as President due to personal issues… tired – overworked etc.. now this is not a direct comment — but fairly reliable sources..

  7. I’ve said it before and will say it again; this ‘budget crisis’ is not new news. the writing was on the wall for quite some time. It was known at the last time the union contracts were negotiated. I do not believe that the teachers should have to re-open. The teachers already made an offer to the district which would result in each teacher giving up more then the average homeowner would have paid more if taxing to the cap.

    Shame on a lot of people for looking towards the teachers pockets to alleviate the responsibility of the tax payers. This school district has amazing teachers, but if you drive them out, you will get nothing but crap in return!

  8. CJ
    While it may seem to make sense, that is not true. In this economy, the choice seems to be between driving homeowners out of a community they can no longer afford, or “risk” driving teachers out. People who chase dollars rarely stay in teaching. When the boat looks like it’s going down, you throw anything overboard that you don’t need. There are so many applications for teaching — which you might assume in a disastrous national economy — that any teacher who gave up their seat has 10 waiting to take it. The reason the district has contemplated an early retirement incentive is to retire $100K teachers to hire $50K teachers. Of course, you lose experience, but you have about 15 years before the new hire catches up to the one that leaves financially.
    And please do not parrot the line about the teachers made an offer — it’s like you offering your next paycheck to President Obama….if he comes and gets it. The teachers offered something that they cannot do — change the contract without “opening” the contract.
    Many agree that there has to be a mixture of more taxpayer pain, but the notion that the teachers should keep their gains while taxpayers may lose their homes is just not going to wash. Shared sacrifice. However that is accomplished — but it won’t put the program in jeopardy — because we won’t get “crap” in return.

  9. “…the notion that the teachers should keep their gains while taxpayers lose their homes is just not going to wash”…..


    The average taxpayer is set to absorb a tax increase of about $10 a month based on a 2.9% tax increase….while T/E teachers are going to watch 12+ of their own lose their jobs in an economy where teaching jobs are few and far between.

    Some of you don’t care. To you, teachers are a commodity, replaceable at any time with those willing to work for less.
    You are one of the reasons why strong unions will continue to have value.

    When the teachers’ contract comes up for renewal, then it will be the appropriate time to ask teachers to contribute more for their healthcare and pensions, and to consider the District’s financial position when negotiating required teaching periods and salary increases.

    Re Ms. Ciamacca’s request for a leave of absence, she has been a tireless advocate for her union and as a result, has been the brunt of criticism and anti-union sentiment. Who wouldn’t want a break from that unfriendly fire?I hope she plans to return to teaching at CHS after her leave bc she is one of the District’s very best and a wonderful mentor/ role model to CHS students.

    1. Why do people always talk about “absorbing the increase” as if that’s the cost? The 2.9% increase is on whatever you are paying — which is about $5,000. I have posted countless places that I don’t think our tax burden is unfair — but I also don’t think that people in education (who often are married to people in education) fully comprehend the economic circumstances we are all living under. TE Teachers are NOT going to watch 12 of their own lose their jobs — but the fact that you have that talking point means you probably know that but are determined to add emphasis where none is required.
      The public information available has indicated that Ms. Ciamacca has requested a leave under policy 4160, which is for professional development (education). She has not requested a leave for health reasons, so it is your hyperbole that she is running from criticism and anti-union sentiment. If you know her, you would hopefully know that’s not her style. It’s an ugly game being in a union — especially one that takes so many marching orders from Harrisburg, but as a former Marine, I think she’s up to it. If the information is correct, her application for leave is contingent on her planning to return. Any sabbatical is a good faith promise to let the district pay her for her absence because she is improving her value (education or health) on her return. . It is not time off — there are educational parameters under which she is applying.

      And as I said previously — blogs and email lose tone. I do not consider teachers any kind of commodity — but their union model does. It’s why they are paid based on longevity and education. It’s why they get paid for “workshop time” in the summer. It’s why they get legal protection against “losing their jobs in an economy where teaching jobs are few and far between.” If your company needs to lay people off — they do. The district has to jump through countless hoops to demonstrate that they do not need to fill positions — and this district has made it clear that this will be attrition and LTS spots going unfilled..
      As to the reopening of the contract — it’s a request that will reduce the pressure to eliminate more programs. A deal is a deal, and there is certainly no reason to do it. But the teachers claim to have offered something, and without it being part of a contract discussion, it’s a hollow offer. Why offer something that has value and not be willing to discuss alternatives? I don’t believe they should have to do it — pay more towards their benefits than their current contract requires — but the market is charging more for their benefits and absent their offering to take a lesser plan or pay more into it, they will face far more dire alternatives as we move forward. The district is considering self-insurance because the consortium they are part of is ending….

      So — while we clearly do not agree on much (since you are debating the purpose — not the cost — of sidewalks elsewhere on this blog), I can assure you that the pendulum will swing and knock the crap out of the teachers the next time around when the district turns to distance learning for courses, cuts back on the educational benefits they offer, and is part of a statewide effort to curb pensions for future generations of teachers. It’s a good, secure career — if you want a great job (whatever that is), you take more risk — you might get bigger rewards (or fired). But 10 months of work, 7.5 hours a day with a pension of 2.5% for every year worked is not a bad gig…which is why teaching jobs are few and far between. And yes — I know great teachers do far more than that — but we dont’ get to pay them more, and we don’t get to fire the ones who don’t do any more than that.

      1. “Blogs and email lose tone”, you say?

        No, I think your tone comes through loud and clear. You seem to consider yourself an insider on school district matters. A former school board member, perhaps? So you are clearly angry and feel justified in spewing nasty predictions – e.g. ” I can assure you the pendulum will swing and knock the crap out of the teachers the next time around”.

        Are you trying to intimidate someone?

        Yes, teachers have more security than private sector employees and small business owners. And like all public sector employees they have enjoyed small but predictable raises. If the economy hadn’t taken a nosedive, no one would be envious of teachers’ relative good fortune now. But for that they should be willing to bend over? I don’t think so.

        I credit the current School Board and Administration for having worked very hard to move toward a responsible and balanced budget. Many of the proposed fixes offer a one-time benefit, so going forward some fundamental changes will need to be made. All involved acknowledge that. Plus, the State will have to act on the looming increase in pension obligations. A satisfactory solution to this problem would improve T/E’s financial stability as well as every other district in the state.

        But I don’t think your tone helps anyone or moves this process forward. Neither teachers, administrators, school members, nor taxpayers should be singled out or demonized. Teachers’ unions will continue to act in their members’ best interests as well they should, and so will everyone else involved. . But somewhere in there a workable compromise will be found.

        And it won’t be a market-based solution – bc the quality of a public education will always be evaluated in terms of the the success of its students, and not some bottom-line number.

        T/E’s formula has worked exceptionally well so far. Let’s not screw around with it.

        1. Fan says, “T/E’s formula has worked exceptionally well so far. Let’s not screw around with it.”

          Look who’s “clinging to the status quo” now!

        2. My goodness fan. I’m feeling the way John Petersen does when someone has a barely veiled agenda and yet wants people to heed their call. Married to a teacher? sitting board member? Teacher yourself? Your perspective is not much like someone who reads the papers, but it’s also not someone who sits in the audience of many of the meetings from the last year or so. And I am anything but an insider — certainly not a board member, — but a long time resident who grew up here, raised children here, and consider myself a fairly astute follower of all things TE. But for whatever reason, you seem to attribute anger to me because I am not in agreement with you, when you ignore reality. You did not address a single thing I said — up to and including the fact that unions commoditize teachers, not parents and taxpayers. You didn’t back off on your claim that Debra C is tired of the criticism and is taking a break. You then said that market issues don’t affect schools — only the success of students — which clearly ignores the fact that much of the talk on this blog has been about our underpaid teachers — yet TE ranks above every local district in state rankings. So where is the pressure for TE to not take control of its own future. Why wouldn’t the board have asked for Act 1 exceptions (whatever those would be) and raised taxes at will — because we clearly get what we pay for. Right? Right now, taxpayers and administrators are being “singled out” for scrutiny, but teachers seem to be hands off. What is that? It’s a free market — they can come or go.
          And you can assume my reference to the pendulum is not any kind of my anger, but in fact is a dire prediction of what the next negotiaton will look like. Clearly you did not see Mr. Mahoney take a swipe at Ms. Ciamacca when she made her plea about 3 days off — openly annoyed at what i believe he characterized (though I do not remember the exact comment) as grandstanding. You might also have missed his suggestion at a finance meeting that the board use fund balance to pay for benefits and “get it back in the next contract.”
          And your token effort at conciliation — suggesting that my tone does not move the process forward and then how no group should be singled out — completely ignores the fact that this is not a short-term problem, and given the four year contract, any delay in addressing some issues will simply build up. It’s not about singling out teachers — I think you are wrong that if this was not a tough economy people would not be worried, because if you have been paying attention, efforts at alternative taxing solutions have continuously failed — and the PRERS problem (pension) has accumulated to this point beccause the legislature kept deferring the problem in lieu of attempting a solution. Coming to the table now to rethink the level of health care benefits (not copays — benefits) would reduce the pressures on the district to find a satisfactory solution to the loss of the Chester County consortium programs. Delaying that and apparently seriously considering self-insurance puts TE into the health care business…not the business of education.

          And thanks — You go Mike — except that Fan is not really clinging to any status quo — just his notion of what it is.

          By the way — NOW I am angry. Offer some solutions, not some “I lived in California” generalizations about what you think our educational system is doing. “Let’s not screw around with WHAT? Which formula are your referring to?

  10. Township Reader
    Here you and I do not see eye to eye. You make it seem like the only reason one chooses to be a teacher is because of the money. That is simply not true. One chooses to teach because of caring for children and the pleasure and rewards of seeing a child graduate and be successful. If you think that a day in the life of a teacher is a bed of roses – think again.
    Kids today – raised in this culture – feel that they are “entitled” and quite frankly many many students feel that their teacher is their slave… and forget about the parents that are more interested in soccer sideline talk that their child is in “above level” than respecting the teachers professional opinion.
    You might want to look at the turnover numbers – nationally only 2% of teachers turnover is due to retirements while two-thirds of the remaining 15% cite job dissatisfaction. And most of the voluntary turnover is within the first 5 years of service.
    And still no comments about the the 350,000 dollar compensation package for the Superintendent. a mere 100,000 reduction would keep 2 FTE’s.

    1. Blogs and email do not adequately convey tone. I do not have anything but the utmost appreciation for teachers — I was responding to the threat that we would lose great people and get back crap in return. The market does attract more to teaching — and I know quite well that most turnover occurs in the first five years. What I said — and meant — is that teachers who chase dollars (the typical teacher is NOT someone that does that) by looking at other districts or other careers are not likely to stay in teaching anyway. That’s the point.
      I don’t think the teachers should reopen their contract — a deals a deal — but I don’t want references to this hypothetical giveback of 3 days at the end of the 2010-2011 school year as a fair offer, because it’s not real. Look around at your neighbors and friends who are losing their jobs — and tell me that teachers are being hit harder? 12 teachers (per the above reference) are not going to lose their jobs — that is not legal. 12 positions are not going to be filled….(his numbers, not mine). Mrs. Tiede specifically said that will come from attrition and LTS spots. I wish I only knew 12 people in my neighborhood that were out of work — I know twice that. It’s kind of a dirty little secret right now — but if you are 50 and in a stable conventional position, you are looking over your shoulder. And those folks have savings, but not pensions.
      I will comment one last time about the Superintendent’s package — it’s what they are paying him, not what he is negotiating for. But aside from that, they are paying him top dollar for a top job in a top district — and they don’t want turnover. Teachers forfeit their market value by being a union member. If you could pay great teachers what they are worth, and could hold onto teachers with money that you didn’t want to lose, many star performers would be making more than the union number. BUT since you cannot, and you have to pay everyone with the same longevity and education the same amount, it becomes a compromise. Some are underpaid, some are overpaid. Depends on where you are in that pecking order — but wherever you are, you are tenured and have a pension — find me any other industry right now that is true and I’ll show you an industry that is being outsourced to India and the far East. If we have to pay too much to get a job done, we’ll find a cheaper way to do it. You are paid for doing a job — and you get job security to the extent possible if you teach. In this economy, I’d say that’s a decent deal.

  11. Thank you for your reply and clarification.
    But I would warn you to be careful with what you suggest… As on-line internet teaching becomes more prevalent in this District your kids just may be being taught from India. They are already reading your MRI’s and X-rays…

  12. Papadick
    I know your warning is accurate — but the reasons our MRIs and taxes and countless other things are happening there is because the world is flat — and we have priced local performance above what we can buy it for elsewhere. Outsourcing is something that will ultimately affect teachers just as it has affected the steel industry, auto workers, customer service reps — and on and on. That’s why the power of a union can be alarmingly unstrategic. So the fear about being taught online is not about India or anyplace — they won’t offer courses they don’t believe meet local standards — but whose to say where those courses originate? It’s about looking at the global economy and trying to stave off economic outcomes…which is why earlier i said the union would be smart to try to get a jump on how benefits are treated — reduce the level of benefits rather than the copays — to reduce the costs — and take a step towards the next contract where the public has been prepared to take a strike…and no one benefits when that happens.

  13. Township Reader,

    So you consider yourself a “fairly astute follower of all things TE” ? Good for you! From my perspective, you sound like one self-righteous know-it-all. But that’s just my opinion….

    Your comments are way off base and likewise, remind me of John Peterson on a roll. (l.o.l, John) But again, just my opinion…I don’t read the papers. I ignore reality. Clearly I didn’t see this, I missed that, and “ignored the fact that this is not a short-term problem”.

    A point-for-point refutation would almost seem pointless given your all-knowingness, not to mention openness to differing opinions, but here goes:

    1) Deb Ciamacca may be taking a leave of absence for any number of reasons. I don’t know what they are. That is not the point. I think she has endured some unfair criticism during the last 6 months and was only expressing my support for her based on personal knowledge of her contributions at CHS.

    2) Unions commoditize teachers? Your opinion, not mine.
    Teachers’ unions provide far more benefits than limits to teachers at this point. I’m sure there are many individual teachers who would prefer to be evaluated and compensated on the basis of their own performance. But most understand what they have gained. Some older teachers remember firsthand what the profession was like
    before teachers had union representation. On balance, unions have improved working conditions for millions, including teachers.

    3) You question the relationship between teacher salaries and student performance. There clearly IS a relationship, though not direct. The best teachers are attracted to the best school districts – as long as their pay is in line with other highly regarded school districts’ to which they might also consider applying. The current job market is so anemic that teachers have fewer places to go right now, but that will change. We need to remain forward-looking…

    4) Yes, there’s no question that the next round of contract negotiations will be very difficult. Your choice of words i.e. “the pendulum will swing and knock the crap out of the teachers” was poor, and I imputed a tone that you say was not there. I accept your interpretation.

    5) You are not a member of an exclusive club in your understanding of the dire consequences of the unfunded PSERS problem and increase in healthcare costs to the district.. And i did not mean to suggest that they are not huge problems apart from the difficult economic circumstances most of us are enduring. Clearly, you think teachers should open up their contract now to renegotiate their contributions – as a gesture of shared sacrifice.

    I agree that it would be helpful, but I respect the teachers’ decision not to. After Mr. Mahoney’s dismissive response to a good-faith offer – which could have been a starting point for further talks, I understand the union’s position. There is bad blood now and the element of trust is missing.

    6) Re my clinging to the status quo (after criticizing someone else for doing so re sidewalks), I accept Dr. Waters’ assessment that the way the District does business will have to change going forward. However, I reiterate what I think many people in T/E believe: TESD has provided a high quality education at a great value. There is a great focus on preserving excellence while making necessary cuts. Taxpayers unwilling to support the future cost of our schools may be the loudest voices at the table, right now, but they need to be countered by those of us who are open to the facts and willing to pay for continued excellence.

  14. Fan
    Appreciate your response. While you have concluded that i am generally dismissive — I truly am not. I appreciate your response here, because it addresses the questions we face and doesn’t just offer talking points. The Status Quo has always been forward thinking. I did consider Mr. Mahoney’s response to be foreshadowing of a bad outcoming coming up. I also know Ms. Ciamacca quite well and hated to see anyone associate her application under 4160 as her bowing out…
    So we can part here on calmer waters. It will take many of us to support the system and not just have the board here messages of cut-cut-cut — but we also have to encourage the people inside the system to try to avoid the conflict that — inappropriate tone or not — might whack the stuffing out of all of us next time around. radnor and LM are negotiating this year I believe — that will be telling, especially considering the tax structures in those areas already under stress from external forces (politics and litigation)

  15. Gentlemen – May I remind you both that PSERS is NOT controlled or run by the Union but rather it is controlled by the folks in Harrisburg. Even if the local Union wanted to make changes — they could not.
    As to Health care premiums I agree that the teachers should agree to pay some portion of the premiums as many many taxpayers due at their workplaces. I am concerned that the Board is looking at self-insurance – and on the surface I am opposed to any move like that – as I agree that the Admin folks should be dedicated to educational concerns and not health issues. I am also sensitive to the fact that the folks pitching such a change are the same folks that will make a ton of money if it is adopted. I wonder if the Blues have had an opportunity to speak to the Board.

  16. PPD58
    Not sure what made it sound like we think it’s a local issue. PSERS is definitely not local — it’s just that we are at the mercy of a solution at the state level, but have to make the payments locally.
    The only issue with PSERS that affects us locally (besides paying for it) is that teachers who are working in the system are eligible for a very nice pension someday, and I believe that should influence their intensity when negotiating benefits. Most taxpayers will retire on the backs of a 401K accumulation that has been badly damaged (like the PSERS program) but is not defined benefit — so the notion of fixed income will become even more compelling on taxpayers. That’s where I approach the notion that the TEEA should preemptively try to fix the benefit problem to keep the negotiations 2 years from now to become any kind of “pay back.” Fan thinks I’m suggesting the teachers bend over… (his words) but I most certainly am not. I suggest they move forward to proactively (as opposed to publicly offering in a speech) some shared sacrifices in this economic period of decline.
    PSERS requires responsible review — and sadly that’s almost an oxymoron when it comes to politicians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Community Matters © 2024 Frontier Theme