Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Tredyffrin’s Preliminary Budget Approved with 6.9% Increase, but Chairman Bob Lamina hopes we can do better!

There was some forward movement on the budget last night at the Board of Supervisors meeting. At the onset of the budget discussion, Mimi Gleason apologized to the supervisors and to the public for the errors contained in the preliminary budget that was presented at the last BOS meeting. There were math errors in the budget summary tables that were carried forward in the township manager’s narrative. Gleason offered that the week before there had been a number of last-minute changes in the benefit numbers as her explanation.

I am glad that John Petersen reviewed last week’s preliminary budget and caught the discrepancies and notified the township. It was good to see that responsibility was taken for those mistakes and I am hopeful that going forward, there will be greater oversight from the Finance Commission and the supervisors. For the record, there never was a response to the residents from last week’s emails. Some would suggest that since the message was received and changes made, no response was required. Although I am a proponent for process, there is not closure on the issue and we can move on.

There was much discussion and questions from the supervisors to Gleason and the finance director in regards to the budget. Although there were mistakes in the budget summary, the numbers in the budget remain the same – there is a $500K deficit in the 2012 township budget. Without any adjustment to the preliminary budget, the deficit would mean a 6.9% millage real estate tax increase. Using an average assessed property value of $221,000, the increase would equate to approximately $34 per homeowner. The major contributing factors to the deficit are the decrease in transfer and real estate taxes and a significant decrease in the recycling grant money. Both residential and commercial property reassessments have greatly reduced real estate taxes.

Several areas in the budget were reviewed in detail. Specifically, there is a $106K in the budget for website and software upgrade. Of that amount, $6,500 earmarked for a citizen notification system. This system could provide notifications for emergencies, road closures, special events, etc. The approximate $100K remaining funds is split with $50K for contact management system and $50K to permit greater flexibility and to keep making progress. The goal is to make the website more user-friendly, including the ability to reserve sport and summer camp programs online, a complaint and work order tracking system for public works, a third-party credit card system, etc. The $106K website and software upgrade would come from reserves.

There remain some open issues surrounding the employee health insurance costs. I was very surprised to learn that the current budget includes 100% paid insurance. I suggested that almost everyone pays a co-pay of $15/20 and had that been considered? Although Mimi responded that this is part of the union negotiations, I am not confident that the insurance situation is going to change. With the school district negotiations starting in January, this may offer some bargaining power for the teachers.

Tim Klarich, the township finance director alluded to the large unfunded medical and retirement liability but did not state the total. It was my understanding that several years ago, there was $25 million in this unfunded liability and I asked that number to be qualified. Very surprised to learn that the township’s unfunded liability as of January 1, 2011 was $36 million! Although Klarich stated that at this time, there is no minimum contribution requirement for this liability, it does make you wonder what our increase would be if the taxpayers were forced to fund $36 million liability! When and how does that liability receive funding? Is this a bond issue?

Currently the 2012 budget summary is available online but I asked if the township could provide the full budget online for the residents. Bob Lamina asked Mimi if that was possible and she agreed to provide the information. I am not sure if it will confuse us more or help us – but at least this way, we will be able to review the department budgets and see the line listings that make up the individual budgets.

Although the budget discussion ended with the unanimous approval of the preliminary budget with its 6.9% millage real estate tax increase, there was the sense from the supervisors that they are going to continue their review. Lamina stated that he believes that they can do better than the 6.9%. He is not certain that they can get the budget down to a zero percent increase but between now and the next BOS meeting on December 5, they are determined to try.

Share or Like:


Add a Comment
  1. That is a very good point regarding unfunded liabilities. The old trick of ignoring it will no longer work with so many people retiring. This is an issue at every level of gov. Promises have been made that simply cannot be kept.

  2. and they keep getting away with it – telling their gullible voters that they are “fiscally responsible”, then raising taxes less than a month later! They have done this before – repeatedly!!! HELLO TREDYFFRIN VOTERS!!!! HELLOOOOO!!!! Are you awake?

    1. Let’s see. Radnor and Easttown in last two years: over 16% and 20% in tax increases vs. zero here; Tredyffrin in three years will be (at max) under 7%. And we don’t know what Radnor and Easttown will be doing. So, our neighbors will have seen increases 2 and 3 times ours.

      I think Tredyffrin voters are pretty awake: they understand these are tough times but compared to all those around us, the BOS here is doing very well.

  3. A couple of items caught my eye.

    Data from the county suggests that the decline in assessed value will accelerate into 2012. Total assessed value at $3.52 bn will be ~2% lower than 2009’s $3.58 bn. Commercial values are accounting for the latest drop – a ~5% fall to below $1 bn from 2011 to 2012.

    The issues with last week’s budget memo were caused partly by the need to rework the budget to account for an unexpected change in the cost of the planned “high deductible” healthcare benefit program. The premium estimate from Blue Cross/Blue Shield came in at $400,000 more than projected. It seems as though some of this was offset with other cuts, but this has caused the deficit (and required tax increase) to be higher than previously thought.

    So we are looking at a “high deductible” ($3,000 for individual, $6,000 for family) plan, but the health benefits expenditure in the general fund is still projected to be $150,000 (10%) more than the current year. How can this be?

    Well, it’s because the Township still is planning to pay the full amount of each employee’s deductible!

    So, unlike in the taxpayer’s world of co-pays and deductibles that serve as some brake on utilization, in the world of the taxpayers’ employees, free healthcare is unlimited.

    Plus the budget assumes 3% salary increases for all employees.

    As Pattye notes, these items are still being worked on in contract discussions, but there was no indication that there is any attempt to rein in these costs. The net SW&B rate increase looks to be about $350,000, about three quarters of the proposed tax increase.

    As this budget gets finalized, there are some important choices: expand revenues by increasing the rate on a declining base, or control expenses by reducing the quantity at an increasing rate – or somewhere in between on all factors? (The tax base is the only uncontrollable factor here).

    At the moment, the scales seem out of balance.

    1. Even though I had to scribble quickly when the slides went up, I think the numbers are good. Note that the ~2% decline is from 2009, the decline from 2011 to 2012 is 1% ($3.56bn to $3.52bn). I think that you are right and this may be more than is being assumed by TESD. If the res/comm pattern holds, maybe Easttown values will have held up a little better.

      It was slightly amusing that the analysis by property type (residential, commercial, industrial, etc.) had a typo on it that was obvious and recognized at the time – no need for any forensic accounting there! But we had to guess the missing digit!

  4. Ray
    The scale has been out of balance for a long time, but taxpayers paid little if any attention when times were good. There are not things that are negotiated — these are things that our employees will NOT negotiate. I think there are attempts to rein in costs, but they are useless.

    There is only one thing that employers have in this economy to control costs — that is to lay people off. The only way there is a chance to get back some of this ridiculous excess is to trade it for jobs. That’s why the custodians at Conestoga did a one year freeze — to save their jobs. The teachers played us and only gave up a half year — which is fake since they moved to the next step in the schedule (just delayed the move) so the base stays at the new number. The difficulty in laying off is obvious for police, but it’s why the school district needs to change class size and proceed with some way to outsource….which are all non-negotiable to our unions.

    So in fairness, I do think there are plenty of people interested in reigning in costs — but these are not options at the table….what is the bargaining chip from our side? JOBS. That’s it. There were complaints at a previous police contract about going to arbitration (mediation?) and the waste of money — because the conclusion was they would win. So what’s different now? Remember the 3% increase is accompanied by a pension raise by accruing another year service credit. And we are paying that too.

    So — I don’t think anything is likely to come out of contract negotiations except to slow the increase…but unless we are willing to furlough employees — where exactly is our leverage?

    1. So, what happens if we say: either [a] the next contract has no net SW&B increase or [b] there is no new contract?

      (Another option for [a] would be a net SW&B % increase equal to the net % increase in taxpayers’ disposible income after healthcare costs).

      1. No contract means status quo — which means the health care plan stays the same which means we spend a LOT more on benefits. …. the older teachers absolutely will want status quo and the younger teachers will want their raises. Remember even under status quo, they all accrue 2.5% raises towards their pension.

        SO — where’s the “power” in negotiating? The only bargaining chip is JOBS. So the community needs to step up and pay a lot more, or they need to sit back and endure the fight. Either way, when your kids can’t seem to schedule time with a teacher (work rules) or your kids are home for a strike day (who will watch the kids?) or all the families are angry that the non-parent taxpayers are holding fast, it does great damage to a community. SO you can either reach into your pocket or you can be prepared to be indifferent. Or what?

        This does have state implications. Jeffrey Sultanik has been hired as the new negotiator for our district. His credentials are extensive and his experience is broad. I STRONGLY encourage those who are interested in this topic to read his testimony from 2009 on the entire issue of negotiating and the difficulties with the current programs. After reading this, you might be inclined to learn even more. But this is a great summary of some of the complications of the notion of “collective” bargaining.
        Stop Teacher Strikes is a cause worthy of understanding. Google it. Please.

        1. Township, maybe it may be worth it to endure a fight now to fix whats wrong and go into the future stronger with more fiscal sanity? Sure a strike would be hard, but it would be hard for the teachers too. The work rules in place vis a vis not scheduling time with teachers, or no online courses are the beginning, and are obnoxious. Maybe its time for a fight to right some things?

      2. Why are public employees still receiving pensions? I don’t get it. Grandfather any existing pensions, but for any new hires, get with the real world – 401K is the standard – and it won’t bankrupt the rest of us.

        1. “Sure a strike would be hard, but it would be hard for the teachers too.”

          How so? The hard part for a teacher would be the vote to authorize — but that only requires a voice vote of those present….another thing that the legislature hasn’t backed down on….part of the notion of “card check”…..
          Teachers do not lose any compensation when they strike. The district cannot hire anyone who has not worked for the district in the previous 12 months….but until they run out of time in the calendar (and those in-service days, vacation days and staff days go first — and THEN the district has 180 days by June 15th or the last day of the school calendar) when they are ordered back to work. Again, read Sultanik’s comments from the link — it’s a clear explanation.

  5. From Sultanik’s testimony:
    If a district is experiencing such growth in its health benefit costs, the districts often request higher premium shares from bargaining unit members. Bargaining unit members may be better off in just maintaining the status quo than accepting the board’s increased premium share, even though the premium share increase is coupled with a salary increase. Bargaining unit members who happen to be on the maximum step of the salary schedule and do not normally get the benefit of step movement usually receive the least percentage increase of members covered under the collective bargaining agreement. If there is a large number of bargaining unit members on the maximum step of the salary schedule, they very frequently are unwilling to absorb increased healthcare costs because they would often be in a negative income situation if they would accept the board’s proposal. This causes the union to engage in extended periods of living under the status quo contract, since the individuals on the maximum step of the salary schedule perceive that they are better off with the status quo than the changes asserted by the employer.

  6. The school district and township situations are similar, but there are important differences.

    The point about the matrix distribution is very well taken but specific to the teachers. In TE’s case it will come down to the power of the 38% who are on the top step vs the 27% on steps 11-15 who are in line for the $5,000/yr or more step increases. At least, TE’s financial projection does build in an estimate for the increasing cost of healthcare that would occur under a contract status quo.

    On the township side, it seems though, that the taxpayers are funding both increasing healthcare expense and also increasing salaries. What’s the argument for that?

    1. Ray
      Are you being deliberately obtuse? The school district and the township are in the exact same situation — they both need to collectively bargain with people they NEED — not with people they can either outsource or fire and start over. The last contract at the township went to a 3rd party ….at least the township isn’t bound by status quo requirements…but they also are bound by arbitration outcomes if they go there. No air traffic controllers here. Just police and school teachers — both mandated public services who are represented by unions that have NO INCENTIVE to provide any relief.
      So you can say the teachers will do what you want, but if you read the Sultanik comment directly above, you will perhaps understand why “status quo” is difficult to overcome….and you have to “buy it off” anyway. The township, on the other hand, has a dirty cheap millage now — and when we say 6.9% increases, it’s because it is so low that the “percentage” is so misleading. But regardless, no time machines here. We cannot go backwards….ask the auto industry, the steel industry, the customer service industry, technology…..oh that’s right — they were outsources. No one left here.
      So what are the alternatives to teachers and police?
      And as to why they have pensions — it’s because they don’t make big dollars…..(then again, with 100% pensions, they don’t need to save for their futures).

  7. The PSEA (teacher’s union) has done a wonderful job over the years enacting supportive legislation – right to strike, tenure, certification, continuing education requirements, status quo, forced union dues, sabbaticals, defined benefit retirements that cannot be reduced, furloughs that cannot be used for economic reasons – to name a few.
    They’ve also done a great job supporting the myths that keep local school boards from acting efficiently – to improve we need more money, a reduction in spending will hurt education, increasing class size will decrease academic performance, teaching improves with more degrees and experience, teachers are badly underpaid in comparison to other professions, an accountability system for teachers is unfair – to name a few.
    The union leadership is smart, organized and persistent. The next contract talks will be interesting.

  8. I am thinking that the school board should outsource bargaining with the union.. I don’t know if they already do that to some degree, but whatever the case, I contend the board needs a top notch negotiator to match wits and guile with the union, evenly matched so all can be happy, or unhappy.

  9. “Maybe its time for a fight to right some things?”

    I like to think the purpose of this blog is to share information and exchange ideas — not just to throw stuff out there. Time for a fight is moot – as it will not right anything. That’s the point. And yes — the district has hired Sultanik. I posted a link to his 2009 testimony and highlighted his concerns about districts that go status quo —

    SO — if you all want to learn something about this, and not just sit around the barbershop and bitch about it, then please read the links and do some research. The Stop School Strikes site is very informational — because as Keith K says above — the PSEA has all the groundwork in place….as to all unions in this incredibly pro-union state — the exchanges that take place are NOT negotiations. They are districts bidding against themselves to see what the teachers will accept. When you heard in the old days about adding days to the teaching year, I assure you that was because the district BOUGHT more time. 1 day is about 1/2% of each teacher’s salary….which is why work to contract and strikes don’t cost teachers a dime….not a dime. But I’m not going to load that on here — you all need to read and learn, not just debate. Debate is fine and interesting, but a few more facts would be more useful.

  10. TR,
    You said, “the exchanges that take place are NOT negotiations” and the districts are “bidding against themselves”. I think that’s confusing to the average reader.
    I’d characterize the exchanges that take place as negotiations with a “floor”. The “floor” is an approximate 2% per year minimum guaranteed compensation increase caused by the legislated PSERS increases and health care inflation under status quo. Thus, the board’s negotiations goal is to get the contract settlement away from, say, the 6% yearly increase the union might request and as close to the 2% “floor” as possible.
    Don’t misinterpret this post as supportive of the status quo situation in any way where the union is guaranteed a minimum 2% per year compensation increase. I’m just trying to clarify.

  11. Thanks for the comment. Here’s what I mean —
    The current salary schedule has built in raises….and the process starts with the current schedule. So if NO changes are made to the schedule, the staff advances to the next step. That’s the presumption.
    Given the status of the schedule, and the constitutional prohibition against reduction of compensation, the board starts by keeping the salaries where they are — no step improvements — and then if there are any issues they want to approach (for instance, online learning — which they lost in a grievance), then they have to “buy” that. Since status quo is already expensive (cost of health increases only), anything else is very difficult to achieve, because the raises are already there.
    Now — I have asked on this site and elsewhere whether the constitutional prohibition applies to “starting over” — i.e. if the schedule can have any steps reduced? I don’t know that answer. But as I said before — with a starting salary of X, and a “max” step of Y, if you keep moving Y up, then the step increments get bigger each year….
    So that’s what I mean by bidding against themselves. The union can strike (huge conflict) and doesn’t lose one dime of compensation. The district cannot make a “last best offer” == and the rest of the increases are already in place on the schedule as it is. That’s the problem. No floor. Just history. 15 or so steps in place with some major double digit step increments….
    So that’s the issue. It isn’t a negotiation in truth. That would be give and take. The districts requests and pays. Even if they ask for higher co-pays, it’s higher copays of first dollar insurance that is a defined benefit. There is no way to control the cost of that insurance as in a premium support model. And when the discussion moves to reconsideration, it’s not negotiable. No incentive for state negotiators to care or change.

  12. It’s not clear to me that the PA Constitution prohibits the reduction in compensation of public employees. As I understand it, the constitutional issue arises with pensions, that are viewed to be a contract subject to Article 1, Section 17:
    “No ex post facto law, nor any law impairing the obligation of contracts, or making irrevocable any grant of special privileges or immunities, shall be passed.” But, I’m not a lawyer!

    Indeed, the Governor proposed a 4% reduction for the first year of the current state public employee (AFSCME/SEIU/etc.) contracts. The end result, however, was a freeze for the first year and increases cumulating to 11.2% for the three years thereafter, offset by an increase in the employee healthcare contribution from 3% to 5% in the last year and a 15% reduction in the 13 annual sick days.

    I’m not sure why Tredyffrin Township should be entertaining a contract any more generous than this.

    Moving to TESD, I think that Keith is right: the “status quo” amounts to an effective ~2% compensation increase (say 10-15% per year on a $15,000 premium for a $85,000 employee).

    So, how does this play out? Look to Neshaminy for a possible model.
    – District says: that’s all the money we’ve got. Take a less expensive healthcare plan, and you can have, say, some certification increases if they’re related to anything proven to help educational quality.
    – Union says: no dice. Work to rule, strike, etc. Has to return after a few weeks to allow for the mandated number of school days.
    – All continue without a contract for a few years. Everybody extremely disgruntled, but taxpayers behind the district because they will be facing program cuts or a referendum at some point for large increase in property or income tax to fund PSERS. A lot of student achievement driven by parental investment in SAT tutors, voice coaches, music lessons, travel sports teams, etc., etc. anyway, plus leverage from college legacy status.
    – Eventually teachers at the top of the scale start to retire; expense goes down.
    – At some point, district can afford a compensation increase. By 2025 or so, PSERS costs start to decline.

    I think it’s really important that scenarios such as this get modeled out, and I would hope that our crack negotiator is doing just that.

    If the union is doing the same thing, maybe they’ll see some sense in taking some proactive steps to work the PSERS problem. The Rhode Island state employee fund got to 50% underfunded, and now there’s legislation (supported by 80% of the state’s Democrats) to suspend COLAs, shift all workers to a new plan, and raise the retirement age. Legislation like this has withstood legal challenges. PSERS is now 75% underfunded and on its way down to bottom out in 2018 at a projected 56%. A few years of sub-8% returns could scuttle that.

    1. At the risk of asking asking what may be a stupid question Ray — how is that the township can have a $36 million unfunded health & retirement liability without a minimum contribution required and the school district can’t do the same with the PSERS. If the taxpayers have to fund PSERS, why is no one concerned about the current $36 million township liability. I’m sure that there is some logical explanation . . . ??

      1. Pattye – I think that one key difference is that the township liability is for post-retirement healthcare benefits, not for pensions. I think that I heard that the township pension plan is adequately funded.

        In general, I think that pension costs are determined by what is EARNED during the year, while healthcare and other post-employment benefits (“OPEB”) are determined by what is PAID. There are relatively recent accounting rules that require the actual OPEB liability to be recognized, but there’s no need to change the funding.

        The bottom line, I think, is that the $36 million liability recognizes the inexorable increase in payments by future taxpayers for the rising cost of benefits to a rising number of retired current and former employees.

    2. Ray
      Good analysis, and I hope someone out there can comment on the compensation protections with some definitive information. I have legal opinions protecting administrative compensation plans and the prohibition against taking away something they have…including prospective benefits. But I’m not familiar with the process.
      As to Neshaminy — I ask again what this township is prepared to consider. I don’t think for one minute that the families with children in this community would prefer a work stoppage to a tax increase….but what can pass the 80% childless electorate is a different story. It’s why labor strife destroys communities. Read the comments about protecting the kids….can’t do it. The economy dictates affordability — not the board. And until they are retired, there are few if any teachers who can begin to appreciate the value of a $100K pension — work 40 years and get your full final value. This year’s numbers for the “max step” are $90,000 for a bachelor’s degree, $95,900 for a Master’s degree, and $100K and over for every other M+ and PhD levels. Now — their W2 won’t say that for this year, but that’s the number they credit for future negotiations.

      Oh — and to understand an example of why it’s tough to take money out — look at the TESD schedules for 2011 and for 2012 — the raises on the Masters +15 and up are almost all double digit. Step 8 in 2010-11 to step 9 in 2011-12 has a raise from $64,240 to 81,480 — almost 27%. That’s not to make you indignant, but it is to point out a fact — that teachers are WELL compensated, and their benefits are unmatched in industry. And they have no need to save for retirement, as they will make as much in retirement as they made when they worked.

      Accountants and actuaries out there — how much would someone have to save to receive $100,000 a year for life…(free of state income tax in Pennsylvania). Oh — that doesn’t include social security, which they also receive.

      Here’s the point — it’s a myth that teachers are under-compensated, and it’s a bigger myth that they work harder for their money than most. It’s because they have a ceiling on their wages — cannot earn the “big bucks” ….but isn’t that a career choice? Isn’t the difference between a surgeon and a pediatrician similar? Isn’t the decison between a prosecutor and a corporate litigator similar?

      And let’s talk about job security?

      How much will the district be paying their negotiator by the hour? Does anyone know? Bet he makes more than the solicitor or a local lawyer who does wills.

  13. One last comment — no one objects to a great teacher making $81,480….right? But 8 years out of school? And with educational credits bought and paid for by the school district?

    Teachers teach for 35 years…a 35 year schedule would be cleaner and clearer…and would not need renegotiating. But it’s this race to the max step (the state PSEA goal is 10 steps) that goes along with tenure that makes it all silly. How many 30 year olds earn $80K with summers off, full health care paid, and complete job security? Not many — and certainly not ones who would walk a picket line.

  14. A few comments –
    There is no incentive for employees to make any retirement concessions. The PA supreme court has already ruled that the legislature cannot reduce promised benefits for current employees.
    Salary Reduction for Public Employees
    As I understand the law, there is no reason salaries cannot be reduced. However, public employees have de facto protection (status quo) against a salary reduction because of court interpretation of the Public Employees Relations Act.
    The Supreme Court cited with approval its prior affirmance of the Board’s holding in Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. Cumberland Valley School District, 6 PPER 211 (Final Order, 1975), aff’d sub nom, Appeal of Cumberland Valley School District, 483 Pa. 134, 394 A.2d 946 (1978),
    that a public employer may not unilaterally decrease wages and benefits provided in the expired agreement as a means of coercing employes to accept the employer’s bargaining proposals.
    Current Salary Schedule
    There is no legal reason the salary schedule can’t be modified or thrown out altogether. But there is no incentive on the union side to do so. They would be better off with the status quo.
    Let’s hope the school board publishes the union offers. A typical union request for budget-busting yearly compensation increases in the current economic environment won’t go over well with the public. Embarrassment is a powerful force.

    1. 100% agreement that transparency is the taxpayers friend. See the Neshaminy school board blog:

      TESD has made great strides in its communication strategy with the input of Debbie Bookstaber. I’m nervous about what will happen with her departure.

      1. I agree Ray. As a school board member, Debbie encouraged transparency and the availability of TESD documents to the public. Here’s hoping that the school board continues that committment to the public.

    2. Thanks Keith.
      My understanding from speaking with people who have done this in other districts is that the union comes up with a number, not a proposal…i.e. 2% — and that is ON TOP of the cost of the current schedule. The schedule costs what it costs depending on where the bodies are on the matrix. I think Kevin has said here that this current schedule was affordable until the economy changed. The health care problem has always been an issue — and status quo gives the union all the “power” it needs to control it.

      In other words — absent legislative relief for the process of negotiations (again, please read the Sultanik testimony from 2009), it’s about what the union allows or accepts — not what the district demands.. Sigh.

      1. I’m sure the district’s financial manager will calculate the total compensation cost of the union proposal over the life of the contract including:
        – matrix movement for the current bargaining unit membership
        – step movement for the current bargaining unit membership
        – an historical estimate of educational movement
        – an historical estimate of attrition at the top end
        – FICA
        – PSERS
        – unemployment compensation
        – estimated health care increases
        After all, this is what will be required from taxes to support the teachers. The union leadership will probably only talk about the money added to the matrix and gloss over the big increases such as step movement, educational movement, health care increases and PSERS contributions. Let’s hope the board makes it public.

  15. I would recommend you also take a look at Central Bucks new teacher’s contract. It reconstructed the salary matrix, froze salaries for the first year, increased employee’s health contributions and reduced pay raises from 4.16 to 1.8 percent. They froze salaries of teachers who are rated unsatisfactory. If a teacher has two straight years of unsatisfactory evaluations, they will be dismissed under this contract. The Central Buck District has 1,300 teachers.

    1. Thanks, Rev Dorsey – very instructive. Note that the teachers approved the contract because (per they “recognize that change is coming”.

      This contract took 18 months to negotiate. Salaries were frozen for 2 years at the 2009/10 level (included in the life of the contract statistics).

      No doubt that TE is different. Not only our location/competition. We have over a third of teachers on the top level (#16), CB has half that number on theirs (#15). CB had three Bachelor steps (one to be eliminated and both remaining to be capped at level #6), TE has one, with just ~15% of the staff on it. TE does, though, have six Masters steps to CB’s three, with ~20% of staff on those extra top steps. Applying the current CB matrix to the TE distribution would reduce costs by 5-6%. (Interesting that the new matrix or mediator presentation can not be easily found, if they are there at all, on the CBSD web site).

      A question for our school board experts: what’s the significance of this action at the last TESD school board meeting:

      “The Board approved a revised schedule of make-up
      days for the 2012-2013 school year. The revised designated make-up days would allow staff to complete scheduled end of the year inservice days prior to July 1 in the event of 8 emergency closings during next school year”.

      Making sure the district gets all it contracted for before the agreement expires? Sending a signal?

      1. Ray,
        You said, “Salaries were frozen for 2 years at the 2009/10 level.” Not so. It’s very easy to misinterpret the salary increases for the first 2 years of the contract.
        As phillyburbs says, there is a “hard freeze” (no salary increase) in the 1st year. And the, “second year of the contract will freeze teachers in step and column.” But here is the kicker – the rearrangement of the salary matrix at the beginning to the second year gives the teachers a hidden 2.6% salary increase – the rearrangement of the matrix adds money to the schedule. See slide 10 in the presentation mentioned in my post below.
        There is a large amount of, what I would call, window dressing that makes this agreement sound better than it is.

  16. Hi Rev,
    I reviewed the mediator’s power point presentation.
    The settlement has some good points, but the presentation misleads the reader with the following concluding remark:
    When Health Care savings are applied to the budget impact of salaries, the 4-year budget impact is 1.17% or .27% per year.
    If the settlement really only had a 0.27% per year impact on the budget it would be truly amazing. Unfortunately, the real budget impact of the settlement is about 4% per year when PSERS and health care inflation are included and when the elimination of 50 teaching positions is excluded. I wonder if the school directors believed the 0.27% per year number.

  17. Thanks for the info Scott. TE has a similar “unsatisfactory” outcome — the key is being unsat for two years….you only need one good marking period to start the clock again.

    I’m impressed if Central Bucks accomplished that for real — or it that’s just what they are saying. But thanks for the reference — very useful.

  18. Indeed Ray — I cannot find their matrix either. I just did a RTK request for their salary schedule and their employee matrix. We’ll see what it shows us. They reference adding steps — which is what I have always suggested — 35 steps….start to finish — and no changes ever….unless you earn the horizontal movement.
    By the way — TE has several Masters+ levels because they previously had a “Masters Equivalency” which was just credits and not a masters. To get rid of the ME, they added a column. They have never had anything between B and M.

    The “savings” they tout are quite disingenuous — they increased the copay and improved the costs (in theory) of their health care plan, but they still have no cap on district costs. Remembering that Central Bucks is the 3rd largest district in the state of PA (Behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) I can fully imagine that jobs were the leverage used. “Either give us this or we’ll cut more”….and with their staff size, that is a powerful tool. TE didn’t have the political (or emotional) courage to outsource Custodians last year. I’m not suggesting that they didn’t make a good decision in keeping our staff, because I didn’t follow it that closely, but I believe they don’t have the temperament to challenge the union should it come down to that.

    As to the calendar adjustments — those are all to minimize the numbers of days the teachers could be out if they authorized a strike. The staff gets ordered back to work by the courts in order to get all the required days in by June 15 or by the end of the calendar year (which is June 30). I haven’t looked at the specific changes, but that’s what it’s about. I’m sure the language is there to minimize the days they could recapture (vacations etc.)

    1. That was a speedy response. Just looking quickly at the two matrices it’s easy to see how this could be sold to the union – those in the top half of the matrix (except the top step) are getting 5-10% increases in 2011/12! It will be interesting to layer on TR’s matrix information to see if we can confirm the average salary increase quoted in the PR materials. Good catch!

      The rest of that salary info will need some serious study to confirm what all the jargon about “Emerging Educator Share Index” etc, etc..actually means.

      1. Ray,
        The new tables are the same old matrix with ratios instead of dollars. Multiply each ratio by the “career rate” (Masters step 15, $95,000) and you have a standard salary matrix.
        The Instructor 1 column can be labelled Bachelor
        The Instructor 2 column can be labelled B+24
        The Professional 1 column can be labelled M
        The Professional 2 column can be labelled M+15
        The Advanced column can be labelled M+30
        The rows, although unlabelled, are steps
        I imagine the board wanted to accomplish two goals.
        1. they went to ratios so future boards wouldn’t be tricked into letting the union add matrix dollars unevenly at the top.
        2. they wanted to limit salary increases for those teachers who never attain a masters degree

        1. The ratios do distribute the increases more evenly, so it was probably worth accelerating those mid-scale raises. The new ratios do stay the same for the later years of the contract.

          It’s interesting that a major result of the approach (which includes freezing the M+15/Professional II column) is to encourage the acquisition of additional credits (up to 30). I’m not sure there’s any data that relates either masters degrees or graduate credits to teacher effectiveness.

          The new matrix will certainly be a lot simpler and less easy to game, and that’s quite an advance.

        2. Ray,
          The studies I’ve read find little correlation between credits and teacher effectiveness. If I remember correctly, some studies find a small negative correlation.
          Probably overlooked by most, the CB agreement tightened the restriction on the courses that can be taken for credit and horizontal matrix movement.
          “Course offerings by third party vendors will not be approved. Correspondence courses, weekend courses, video coursework, self-paced courses and off-campus non-instructor supervised courses shall not be approved.”
          Most community members would assume that the courses taken for horizontal matrix movement would be typical rigorous college level course. Not so. There is a whole industry created to “game” the matrix system. For instance, look at the following University of the Arts course entitled, Integrating iPad Technology

          The course costs $925 for tuition and $495 in fees – all reimbursed by the district. What’s the $495 fee for? Ahhh, an iPad that the student gets to keep. How many days and hours does the course run? Two Saturdays from 9AM to 5PM. Is this course taught by a Phd professor of computer science? No, this is taught by someone with a degree in elementary education.
          There are pages and pages of these mickey mouse courses. Some are correspondence courses. And this is just one of many institutions. It’s easy to see how some teachers in some districts (not TE) could acquire 15 credits for marginally useful courses over a few month period to increase their salary by several thousand dollars.
          TE, to their credit, has some “tight” language in their CBA relating to course approval.

  19. Thanks — I haven’t heard back yet. I asked for the CBA old and new — and the matrix of staff placement. If they do not have the matrix, I asked for a staff listing with placement information for each member.

  20. Keith — what address did you use for the rtk request? I used the email on their website and haven’t gotten an acknowledgement — they 2 more days.

      1. I got the documents. If anyone is interested in getting them, let me know here and Pattye might be able to forward it to you. Otherwise, I’ll see if I can post on a blog with links….cannot do it here because I have the documents, they are not “on the net”

    1. By law they have five business days to respond in writing to: 1) grant the request, 2) deny the request (citing the legal basis for denial/partial denial) or 3) invoke a 30-day extension for certain reasons.
      The delay might mean they are taking the time to construct a formal denial of your request or are taking time to construct a current matrix.

  21. Interesting interview on Fox morning show this morning – Steve Doocy interviewed the president and another member of the Neshamminy school board regarding impasse in the negotiations with the teachers union. I am going by recollection but the gist of it was this:

    The board members stated that the teachers’ demands could not be paid for because of limited taxing authority under Act 1, and, among other things, pointed out that the teachers are “working to the contract” and refuse to sign letters or recommendation or chaparone extra-curricular activites. One of the board’s goals was to get the teachers to pay for some portion of their health insurance (currently they pay 0%). The union president did not appear in person but a written statement was provided to the effect that the board was refusing to negotiate – essentially accusing the board of presenting a “take it or leave it” attitude. There seemed to be some indication that the parents – traditionally supportive of the teachers – were turning on them a bit because of the difficulty in getting letters of recommendation, etc. How’s that for taking the case to the public?

    1. Expect the same here — except that our board won’t likely be that adamant.

      Here’s the deal — we need to offer $12,000 per person for benefits….and the rest they pay for their own. See how much insurance that will buy — and it caps our costs for the life of the contract. Make that offer and see how greedy they appear. The ones that don’t want the benefits can take it in their 403b or any other place it’s not pensionable. You can buy plenty of INSURANCE for $12,000 — that along with their salaries will look very good to the public.

    2. Interesting that Neshaminy is getting national attention. From what I read, the teacher work to rule definitely backfired and in particular the threat of no letters of recommendation cost them a lot of parent support.

      One thing that’s important to recall here is that TESD’s cuts in recent years were to fund the increases in the last contracts. Now there’s less leeway to deal with the coming hike in PSERS. The approaches adopted by Neshaminy and recommended nearby here by TR are the only option going forward.

  22. Comments on an approach to put the onus on the teachers to prove they need more — ?
    Threaten jobs and then seriously — offer a flat amount for benefits for the life of the contract. I don’t have the costs of the current plans, but I assure you that the teachers — if faced with public scrutiny of just how much their plans cost would understand in real terms the cost of insurance. If you gave them a flat amount — and then showed them different plans that would fit inside or close to inside, they would come to understand INSURANCE and not first dollar insurance or free health care. Do you think teachers in this community — when offered PUBLICLY $12,000 a person (or a number to be determined) would refuse and try to negotiate a $15 copay. The key is to get THEM to care about the costs — and asking them to pay a percentage almost gets there, but that does NOT control district costs. If you have a 3 year deal with a fixed amount for the 3 years, if costs went up, their benefits committee would have to work with Personnel to tweak the plans offered to keep them affordable on premiums. Seriously — have to change the discussion to get to answers. Can’t keep asking please will you????
    In previous years this was non-negotiable, but labor peace was more important. And this time, the district MUST negotiate in public. If this newly elected board doesn’t understand that — considering their pleading their cases in the press and on this blog, then we are all doomed.
    The ONLY power the board has is the power of cutting jobs — or the power of righteousness. As long as teachers get their information just from the state union and their reps, they are in the dark about reality for the rest of us. 7 hour,and 35 minute day — teaching 5 or 6 periods, (and grieivng the 6th) and refusing online learning options….it’s no longer about salaries. $100,000 pensions for life would cost them about $3M+ in savings….somehow they have to understand that.

    1. A couple of observations on the CBSD FTE matrix compared to TESD’s.

      The TESD staff has a longer median tenure – a little over 11 years to CBSD’s 8. 33% are on the top step, versus 21% in CBSD.

      The percentages with only a Bachelor’s degree are similar (14% TESD, 18% CBSD), but CBSD has 47% at the M+30 step compared to 36% in TESD (including higher levels at TESD). A reflection perhaps of Keith’s point about the ease of getting credits at CBSD.

      There are only one or two people in CBSD on the higher B and B+12 levels that are to be eliminated. TESD does have a few at those highest B levels that have a salary equal to 80-90% of the top Masters level.

      As measured by the “% of Top Masters Salary” index that CBSD is introducing, TESD already has a much faster rate of increase at the lower levels, the rate of increase levels out a bit around the median, and then pops up at the end. Apparently not as much room for TESD to accelerate the increases as CBSD.

      Applying the FTE distribution to the salaries in each district gives an average salary of $83,247 in TESD, $73,619 in CBSD. A 13% premium as a result of both the distribution and the salary levels.

  23. I have an rtk right now for the current matrix along with benefits costs for each employee. WIll post when I get it.

Leave a Reply

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

Community Matters © 2024 Frontier Theme