Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Another School District With Salary Freeze & One-Year Extension . . . Is T/E the Only School District Expecting a Pay Increase Waiver?

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is reporting that roughly 95 school districts out of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts have some type of salary freeze in place.

School districts around the state are working on their 2011-12 budgets; further challenged by the additional public education funding cuts in Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget. Looking around other school districts, the trend is for more and more teachers unions to accept a pay freeze.

This week, we learned that several local teachers unions (Norristown and Pottsgrove School Districts) are accepting salary freezes for 2011-12. In the Pottsgrove district, the teachers voted for a one-year contract extension that does not raise salaries. From the Pottsgrove School District website, , is the following statement:

The Pottsgrove Education Association voted on May 2 to accept a pay freeze by extending its contract for one year in a move that will save the school district $515,000. The current three-year contract was set to expire August 31, 2011. The Pottsgrove School Board of Education will approve the freeze and extension at its next meeting. In exchange for the freeze, the administration and board have agreed not to furlough or demote any additional teachers for the duration of the one-year contract extension. During the term of the one-year contract extension and freeze, other terms of the contract will remain in place.

Isn’t this salary freeze offer from the Pottsgrove teachers union exactly the same offer that the T/E teachers union (TEEA) gave to the T/E School District? The Pottsgrove teachers are working under an existing contract (the same as T/E teachers) and the contract will be ‘frozen’ and extended an additional year. Pottsgrove teachers will not somehow make up for the salary freeze in the extended year; their salaries remain ‘frozen’ at the same current level. Seems simple enough, right?

As I read about teachers offering (and school districts accepting) salary freezes in other school districts, I keep asking myself why should the T/E School District be different. News story after news story and I never see any mention made of the term ‘pay increase waiver’ as used by the T/E School Board. Obviously, there is something that I’m missing . . . why would TESD turn down the estimated $2.5 million salary freeze offer from TEEA?

We see other school districts graciously accepting the teacher union offers of a salary freeze, why not T/E. In some districts, the teachers and the school administrators are accepting salary freezes voluntarily. There seems to be a spirit of working together toward the common goal of helping to solve the public school funding crisis. I want the same for our school district; we are all in this together – the teachers, the school board and the taxpayers.

It is my understanding from the school board members at this week’s Finance Committee meeting that the TEEA offer will cost the district money. How? Is it possible that the T/E School Board knows more about our district teachers [and their motivation for a salary freeze] than these other Pennsylvania school boards do? If a salary freeze and an extension of a teacher’s contract without a salary increase is such a ‘bad deal’, why are so many other school districts accepting these offers?

It doesn’t seem like the ‘salary freeze’ should be such a complicated issue – why can’t the TESD do exactly what the Pottsgrove School District is doing? A one-year salary freeze, reap the financial benefit and then move on to negotiate the next contract?

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  1. “Pottsgrove teachers are working under an existing contract (the same as T/E teachers) and the contract will be ‘frozen’ and extended an additional year. Pottsgrove teachers will not somehow make up for the salary freeze in the extended year; their salaries remain ‘frozen’ at the same current level. Seems simple enough, right?”

    From this description, this is a Pay Waiver.

    1. So even though the Pottsgrove School Board and the Pottsgrove teachers union call their offer a ‘salary freeze’, you say it it’s a ‘pay waiver’.

      Why do the other school districts and teachers unions (and the governor) use the term ‘salary freeze’ but in T/E, the board doesn’t want a ‘salary freeze’, they want a ‘pay waiver’. And someone who commented a few days ago mentioned, if you read the school district minutes the minutes use the terms ‘pay waiver’ and ‘salary freeze’ interchangeably.

      At a minimum, the terms ‘salary freeze’ and ‘pay waiver’ need to be fully explained by the school board or the solicitor. To confuse the public, may not have been the intention but that is exactly what has happened.

    2. John
      They are out of options. Using the fund balance absolutely ignores the reality. It not only kicks the can down the road, it uses money designated for other purposes (PSERS spike, contractual retirement obligations). And there is no future time when they are likely to add to the fund balance (which believe me, was grown by transfer tax revenue rather than extensive expense savings).

      And no game of chicken. Arbitration is meaningless in that it is non-binding, and isn’t influencing any decisions. This is “managerial” rights….and the “chicken” strategy is that the legislature is going to give them the right to furlough without regard to seniority.

      I urge us all to stop concluding that TE is rejecting something other districts have accepted. Absent full language from each proposal, and comparing it to salary schedules etc. my earlier example of what a “freeze” offer could look like is accurate. And also remember — even when you hear districts settle contracts — “a 3% contract” — that is often PR — in the 80s, TE would brag about a 4 or 5% contract, but leave out the little detail that they added 3 days to the district calendar, and bought them (at about 1% a day).

      Labor negotiations are very difficult to analyze because unless you have the matrix — WHERE THE BODIES ARE — the schedules are opaque. WHere the money is — vertically, horizontally, on the final step or in the EDR (extra duty responsibility), along with the benefit package and the costs annually….all play a role. It’s hard to define competence when you have this many variables at stake.

  2. Pattye,

    Pottsgrove is in a different situation. The teacher contract expires on August 31st.

    For them there, is no difference between a pay freeze and a pay waiver. There is nothing to “waive” because there is no contractual increase for the 2011-12 year as in TE.

    For TE a critical question to answer is, “Does the union pay freeze and contract extension call for two steps in the last year (2012-13) of the contract or one?” Pattye, can you ask the union president? That will tell us if the union offer will result in a savings or loss for the district.

    1. I have sent an email to Pete DePiano the union president, asking him for further clarification. However, it was my understanding last week, that the teachers would ‘freeze’ their level (at their current salary) for 2011-12 & then for 2012-13, the teachers would ‘unfreeze’ and move to the level they should have gone to in 2011-12. I specifically asked before would the teachers move 2 steps to make up for the freeze year; it was my understanding they would not.

      I am hopeful that I will receive a response from Mr. DePiano so that at least we will all understand what the teachers union offered. But we need to remember, that the ‘offer’ was rejected by the school board.

      1. Not moving two steps — but is the freeze staying in the same year (the 2010-11 schedule) or staying on the same step but moving to the 2011-12 schedule….

        Likewise, in the subsequent year, do they return to their “seniority” step on what year’s schedule? And what about the educational horizontal movement?

  3. I agree…but the use of waiver is a legal term. Salary freeze is meaningless unless you know ALL the details. Regardless, it’s complicated even if you understand it — which is why I take on faith the school board illustration (that was run on spreadsheets I assume) that the “freeze” will cost more money — and doesn’t advance the cost controls necessary not just in increment costs, but also health care costs.
    Keep us posted Pattye. Your dedication here goes beyond admirable.

  4. As Pattye has posted before, here is the language from the TEEA offer from April 15th:

    TEEA has authorized a salary freeze proposal for the Board’s consideration. This includes a salary step freeze for 2011-12 based on the current 2010-11 salary schedule, with the final year of the originally bargained contract realized in 2012-13, including step movement and salaries. It provides PSERS clemency to staff that will be retirement next year, AND MAINTAINS STATUS QUO ON ALL OTHER PROVISIONS OF THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT.

    (Capitlization mine for emphasis).

    Note that this is a letter, NOT the proposal, which the letter references as having been authorized. The “maintaining status quo” in all other provisions most likely means horizontal movement on the schedule….which on a purely arithmetic average (not weighted — because I dont’ have the matrix) is about $2300 for anyone making a horizontal move, and can be as high as $8600 for a Step 9 teacher to move from Masters plus 15 credits to Masters plus 30 credits. For the move from Bachelors to Masters in this 2010-2011 salary schedule, the average increase is about $3500…

    Likewise, the reference to “the final year of the originally bargained contract realized in 2012-13 including step movement and salaries” in this letter does not give a hint about whether there is an expectation of being on the seniority step (which would mean two steps — for the deferred year) or simply the “next step.” But regardless, it would mean that we lose a year in the effort to go after a new contract. We may lose 10 years in that effort — as teachers would maintain a permanent freeze (with the same benefit program and continuing to accrue 2.5% toward their pension) if we do not come to terms on a new contract, whenever that process begins.

    This process is hopefully being managed by the adults behind the curtain. If you look at the website, you will see that as has been mentioned here before, they are not using this website for anything other than to communicate with the public. The “officers” show last year’s dates; the only “calendar” information is for May 2011. The TESD report card is 2005. There is no link to the Testifier, their monthly (or quarterly) newsletter that was ALWAYS available online.

    This is clearly an offer, but not quite the level of “sacrifice” the taxpayers are being asked to make given the 3,9% tax increase and the inevitable discussion about alternative revenue sources (EIT). If you think a referendum would pass for implementing that, or a higher tax rate, then the TEEA can sit pat.

    1. Andrea – I am sure that any teacher would be willing to offer the $191 (or above) the ‘average’ taxpayer is being asked to ‘share’ in the sacrifice.

      1. Do you think that is clever enough to get anything accomplished?

        There are 40,000 residents — not quite as many teachers. 25% of the residents have a stake in the discussion (preserving the status quo educationally)…or so we are told whenever we hear about what taxpayers can afford.

        Unless that comment is purely tongue in cheek, you are being played by the PSEA. Hope you are enjoying the game. It’s turning out just the way it always does — let’s get tough — until we do. Then let’s blame the board for something in the past that we cannot change — unless we get tough.

      2. The $191 is the average INCREASE, taking taxes to somewhere around $5,000 per home. With well over half the taxpayers not personally invested in the school system, that’s a lot of money for teachers who have tenure to stand pat.

      3. keeping it real said, I am sure that any teacher would be willing to offer the $191 (or above) the ‘average’ taxpayer is being asked to ‘share’ in the sacrifice.

        For a teacher there is no sacrifice in paying the $191. In fact, it’s a small investment so a teacher can reap an extraordinary return. That $191 in taxes paid by about 12,000 households ($2.5M) turns into an average $5,000 raise for each and every teacher.

        1. And let’s remember that $191 tax increase is not only for this year, but for each and every year into the future. What is that $191 tax increase worth in today’s dollars? Simple, just find the cost of an annuity that pays out $191 each year for the time you plan to spend in your house. Cost? Between $3,000 and $4,000 depending on when you plan to move.

          That seemingly small $191 tax increase is really a $3,500 decision.

        2. Lest we forget teachers have to pay taxes in their own districts – so my $191 would be in addition to their own taxes and the proposed tax increases in their respoective districts. And although our taxes go to pay their salaries it also goes to all the other educational opportunities our kids are afforded.

          I may be one of the few in the community getting a raise this year – but I am not willing to turn around and give it back to the district and I don’t think it is fair to ask the same of the teachers.

  5. I think we all agree about the confusion over waiver & freeze & are we comparing apples to apples when referring to other SDs’ contracts. Without a lot of detective work (and Pattye has done an admirable job staying on top ot this) we may not know the exact status of other SDs’ contracts. Is T/E “pulling the wool over our eyes” using these terms to confuse us?

    I’m very concerned about what happens when we negotiate a new contract if the economy & real estate remains status quo. Will the teachers/unions dig in their heels, refuse any offer, & go out on strike?

    I’m still of the opinion the SD must look at an EIT. Many of the townships/SDs which have initiated EITs have seen their real estate taxes substantially lowered..

    1. The only problem is that the school district can “look” at an EIT, but it can only be enacted (for the schools) by a referendum. Given the current economic pressures, it’s hard for me to imagine this staid locale opting for a new revenue source — regardless of the evidence. “NO NEW TAXES” is a mantra, especially for those who have long since stopped sending kids to schools, whose mortgages are paid off, and who are living on relatively fixed incomes.

      1. I’m well aware how to enact an EIT (earned income tax).

        This is not a PIT (personal income tax) which would affect everyone in the district; it went down to defeat several years ago.

        An EIT would NOT be a “new” tax for those who are not working or those who are retired (living on fixed income). They would pay no EIT at all; thus their tax burden would become virtually nill. The EIT would affect only those who currently live & work in the township or those not paying an EIT to another municipality. We would also recoup those EITs paid by our residents to municipalities that do assess the EIT.

        1. “I’m well aware how to enact an EIT (earned income tax).

          This is not a PIT (personal income tax) which would affect everyone in the district; it went down to defeat several years ago.”

          Pretty snippy answer in a give and take blog. It doesn’t matter what you know — it matters what is likely. I suggested that and EIT requires approval by referendum if enacted by the schools. I don’t see it happening. The whole bother about this year’ s school expenses started with people saying “enough” to taxes. Your understanding of an EIT notwithstanding, it is a NEW tax…not one currently levied by the townships or the school districts. Be sure to volunteer for any future TSC — maybe you can convince a group of citizens who are studying it — and then maybe THEY can convince the voters in our community. My money says no way.

  6. Pattye,

    The question in your title says it all, “Is TE the only school district expecting a pay increase waiver?” YES!

    When you consider the majority of all those districts who have done what Governor Corbett asked have NO WHERE NEAR the CASH resources available, is it no wonder Mr. DePiano and the TEEA are having such a tough time trying to reach a COMPROMISE?

    Mr. Peterson has correctly read through all the agendas on this blog. There is no spirit of cooperation – working together on a solution. You want to know why? The reason is that TE IS THE ONLY SCHOOL DISTRICT in the state to request a WAIVER.
    Does that stance remind anyone of a particular political agenda/movement?

    1. I think you meant to say “. . .Mr. DePiano and the TESD . . .”

      He is the president of TEEA and as you know, the association did offer the salary freeze to the school district and your statements are right on!

  7. Why IS Tredyffrin/Easttown ithe only district in the State requesting a waiver???

    1. Because they are the only district in the state using that language. There are 501 districts. Have we checked with all of them?

      This board spends an inordinate amount of energy trying to determine why — for a myriad of issues — but WHY won’t solve the problem. WHAT we do is the only thing that matters.

      Mr. DePiano is using a website to communicate with the public. He’s clearly doing a good job. Go to the board meeting and take your checkbooks. You can help all of this go away and maybe even write a check to pay for the teacher’s health care plan.

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