Pattye Benson

Community Matters

T/E Fact Finders Report — TESD and TEEA at Odds on Salary and Health Care/Insurance

The Fact Finder’s report has now been released (click here to read). In a quick review of the report, salary and health care/insurance appear to be the issues of major conflict between the school district and the teacher’s union. I offer the following summary and my personal remarks, but encourage you to review the report and weigh in with your own opinion. The public has 10 days to review the Fact Finder’s report and then the School Board votes again on Monday, August 20.


District (1) proposes that as of July 1, 2012 freezing teacher’s salaries at the 2011-12 contract year level; (2) proposes that as of July 1, 2013, freezing teacher’s salaries at the level at which they were at the conclusion of the 2011-12 contact year; and (3) proposes no column and step movement during the term of the Agreement.

Union proposes (1) that for the 2012-13 freezing salary at the 2011-12 contract year and (2) for the second year, 2013-14 year, there will be column and step movement throughout the salary schedule and that those bargaining unit members at the top of their respective columns will receive a payment of $1,000 off-scale bonus.

Recommendation: (1) 2012-13 freeze salary at the 2011-12 contract level and (2) for 2013-14 year, freeze salary for the first one-half of the school year at the 2011-12 contract level and for the second half of the year, there will be column and step movement. Those bargaining unit members at the top of their respective columns will receive a payment of $300 off-scale bonus.

Health Care/Insurance

District proposes to make available health benefit plan to full-time employees (including full-time Health Room nurses). I do not see a coverage option for employee’s spouses and/or dependents (even if the employee pays the difference).

Union proposes a shift to Personal Choice C2 health plan, which would include an increase in copays for doctor’s office visits. Union also agrees to increase its premium share from the current 5% to 7% of premium costs in year one of the Agreement and 8% of premium share in year two.

Recommendation: The Fact Finder report took real issue with the District in regards to health care, stating, “… considering the realities of its financial condition, and its educational and financial goals, there is absolutely no good reason why this School District would not offer more than single medical insurance coverage for its teachers. … There is no defensible reason for this School District – this School District that is one of the richest and best performing school districts in the state – to champion any proposal that would pressure and weaken the families of the teachers who serve the District’s families; removing medical insurance coverage from the children and families of teachers would do just that and I cannot recommend such.” The Fact Finder believes that the District should offer health plan options for teacher’s spouse plus children and family options, suggesting that the District will pay 90 -95% of the premiums and employees 5 – 10% of the premium based on Year One or Year Two of contract.

I’m not certain that I correctly understand the recommendation about ‘who’ is paying for the spouses and/or children of employees. To be clear, I totally disagree with the District on the subject of health care insurance – employees need to be able to have an option of insurance coverage for their spouses and/or families. It does not appear that the District offers that option. Although I am of the opinion that employees should have their individual insurance covered, perhaps the employees should be responsible for the additional costs of insuring their spouses and/or children. If I read the recommendation correctly, that does not appear to be an option.

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  1. While I agree 100% that the district should be providing family level health care to it’s employees, I think their needs to be limitations.

    Perhaps up to 2 or 3 children at the agreed %, then a far reduced district contribution to additional children.

    What I do not agree with is the notion that employees will only need to contribute a mere 5-8% of their health care. I think something along the lines of 20% is far more in fashion to the realities of both private and public sector.

  2. What an unbelievable document. No wonder the TEEA accepted it. He sided with them on 17 out of 19 issues! And absolutely no financial analysis!! There is no way the Board could accept this or anything like it.

    And inflammatory language such as:

    “However, such balancing of interests as relates to bargaining unit members may not be as evident”
    How about the 30%+ increases over the last 4 years!

    “Similarly, it cannot be the subject of honest debate that District employees have been and continue to face difficult personal economic conditions”
    Huh? And the rest of us have not?

    “avoiding tax increases in an economically privileged district such as Tredyffrin-Easttown simply cannot be considered an untouchable and faultless excuse for all things dollarsaving without being subject to examination and question.”
    The last I saw, we have a 3.4% tax increase this year, and there are 3% tax increases forecast out into the future.

    “considering the realities of it’s financial condition”
    Really, it’s? Really? Maybe the fact finder’s English teacher wasn’t paid enough?

    Just to note that the Salary recommendation just defers the step/column increases by 6 months, and of course locks them in for perpetuity.

    The Furlough recommendation appears to recognize the District’s need to allow salary flexibility, but changes the number of possible days from 6 to 2, and allows only half a day after the school year. Meaningless!

    The District accepted last night that health care coverage of family members should be provided. Although it’s not at all clear if that can be paid for with all other recommendations even with 3% annual tax increases. Note that the recommendation is for the platinum vision and dental coverage to continue.

    And here’s the gist of the report:

    “It appears from the overall position of the District at bargaining that the District’s School Board is more comfortable seeking savings from the most convenient (and perhaps the weakest) group of individuals in the process of providing education to District children – the
    District’s employees – than exercising the leadership required to seek the funds necessary to operate the District at the very high level expected by District residents from the very residents who enjoy its success”
    So, the Fact Finder is advocating a referendum for either a property tax or an EIT . But what if those are voted down??

    1. I like this part Ray ….

      “The District maintains that it has effectively managed difficult budget demands in
      recent years. Because its tax base has a large commercial element, in the past District
      residence have benefited from relatively lower property taxes, particularly when
      considering the high performance of the District.”
      …”challenges to raising revenues from other sources”

    2. “District’s position … it seeks nearly a 67% savings in healthcare costs out of the gate.”

      Thanks John for pointing out this statistic. I have been very vocal on the healthcare plan in the teacher’s current contract, in stating that the District can no longer afford their current level. However, from last spring when we learned that the District was proposing the removal of spouse and family coverage from the teachers (and without an option for teachers to pay the differential for this coverage) I have been no fan of this approach by the School Board.

      When I read the Fact Finders report and the recommendations for health care, I could not understand ‘why’ the report was suggesting that the District continue to cover spouses and family members of the teachers — why not suggest that the teachers pay the differential beyond the single coverage. My initial comment on the report included this opinion.

      After a lengthy discussion with John Petersen on this subject, I have now changed my opinion on the Fact Finder report — as related to the recommendation for health care. Although I recall that the teacher union indicated last spring that they would be willing to pay for spouse and family insurance coverage in response to the District’s removal of that coverage in the contract talks, the Fact Finder report can only make recommendations on the information provided by both sides. Just because I think that as a cost-saving measure, there should be a consideration given to teachers paying for spouses/family premiums, that is not the information that the Fact Finder had in front of them. The Fact Finder made the best recommendation he could, based on the information available.

      I believe that the District’s extreme offer on insurance coverage (according to John, a 67% cut) set a very negative stage from the start on the contract negotiations.

      I would love to know if this unrealistic (insulting) insurance offer was from the School Board or from Sultanik? Even if you accept that hardball has to be played in contract negotiations, what is considered going ‘too far”? I think that the teacher’s offer on insurance was measured and reasonable in comparison to the extreme position of the School Board (Sultanik).

      1. If we go back to the contract costing I did 2 months ago it become clear that both offers are extreme. It’s not instructive to pick only one aspect of the district’s offer, heath care, to judge the whole offer.
        Let’s look at the growth in total teacher compensation over the term of the Union’s table offer.
        Teachers (3 years):
        Current year $115,234
        Yr1 $119,411 (3.6%)
        Yr2 $127,704 (6.9%)
        Yr3 $137,761 (7.9%)
        That’s an average of 6.1% each year for 3 years.
        District (2 years)
        Current year $115,234
        Yr1 $110,495 (-4.1%)
        Yr2 $114,618 (3.7%)
        That’s an average of -0.2% each year for 2 years.
        I’ll leave it to the reader to judge whether either offer is reasonable.
        And Pattye, I wouldn’t let the Fact Finder off the hook so easily. I’ve read numerous FF reports and I cannot remember any report where a Fact Finder has inserted such phrases as “there is absolutely no good reason” and “there is no defensible reason”. Let’s remember this Fact Finder in June did not take the Wissahicken Union to task for an offer asking for 4% salary increases each year for 3 years. The Fact Finder shows his bias and disregard for the current economic situation by then recommending 2.5% increases each year for 3 years. Has this Fact Finder heard of Act 1?

    3. I think that we can agree that the District position on healthcare coverage was never going to fly. An interesting question: did being so extreme in the first place tilt the scales towards an eventual more equitable balance or was it so outrageous as to be counter-productive? Whatever the answer to that, it should be said that any time you have a system that adjusts to the market only every four years, there are going to be big dislocations.

      So, are we really “choking off” the district? I don’t think that there is any data to support that (I’ll come back to the iPads). I’ve noted before that TE is simply experiencing the same issues as every other local government entity (and is even sitting on a pile of cash like all the risk-averse corporations!). The challenge is whether we can be smarter about our solution, and not stick to the same paradigms and increasing polarization that got the world into the debt-induced mess in the first place, and threaten to prevent it getting out. It requires flexibility, long term planning, and a move away from entitlement expectations.

      The District is clearly IT-challenged, and perhaps it’s time for a leadership change there. There is an initiative to upgrade the network and provide support for student devices, but it’s moving at a snail’s pace and I sense that there is really no long term educational strategy driving it. There are capital funds available and we should be leaving no stone unturned to use them to save future operating expense.

      As to your last point: my own experience is that our many volunteer Board members likely put in as much thought as their time and other commitments allow. Sometimes there are mistakes. It’s really important to learn from them and to leverage your time with the best available professional expertise.

  3. Having never read one of these before, let me say that I am horrified that this is what is produced by a 30 day fact-finding effort. A local attorney with a career built largely at the NLRB does not seem a neutral 3rd party. In addition to spotty spelling and grammar, he might as well say “WE” when writing about the teachers and “THEY” when writing about the district. There is little effort to even contemplate the notion of managerial rights nor taxing ability.

    Pattye — I agree with you about health care, which is why I have repeatedly said the savings from health care need to come with a re-thinking of the plan, not switching to some other Blue Cross PC plan and shrinking the pool of coverage. There is no way the district under any scenario intends to pursue that — largely because the Administrators are stuck with whatever the teachers get for the next year or two. The current plans have NO DEDUCTIBLE and NO COINSURANCE. THe idea of asking to pay a fixed percentage (which is the teacher offer) simply means nothing in the budget world, where there can be no cost control. Both parties need to agree on a defined contribution.

    The sick days accruals are a whole different problem. In this case, the administrators are far guiltier of piling up sick days — though we do not get subs when they are out. The TEAA has not truly bargained this in the past — it was basically standard practice. Deciding on a limit for it is reasonable. Carrying sick days forever and cashing out at your retirement rate is yet another obligation on taxpayers that we cannot support.

    Maybe Keith saw movement in his district after the fact finders report, but it seems to me this report is not likely to create much movement. It rather is likely to strengthen the employee’s “poor me” perspective and annoy the board’s efforts toward “sustanability.” I don’t see any meaningful compromises requested or offered.

    “TE is a jewel”….but the fact finder completely ignores Act 1 from what I can tell. His health care recommendations reflect no accounting for the costs, and are nothing more than a re-statement of what the teachers have requested. I again rely on the fact that making health care a fixed contribution would allow the TEEA to deisgn and contract for any plan they chose — within the cost parameters to be agreed upon. ALmost $8M in health care benefits is, I think any would agree, not tenable and certainly not sustainable.

    The recommendation relating to job posting completely ignores the district position that EDRs are not covered in the CBA. If he understood the proposal, he would at the very least have suggested a 5 day posting for bargaining unit positions.

    Enough from me. This shed heat, not light. Nice try. THIS is why binding arbitration is not associated with school districts, and why arbitration is completely reflective of the bias (intentional or otherwise) of the reader.

  4. As I’ve mentioned before, the Fact Finding process only serves to divide the sides and prolong the process. The tendency for the Fact Finder to “split the difference” leads the parties to extreme initial positions so that the “middle” is further to their side. I believe the time (7 months) between the start of negotiations and the issuance of the Fact Finder’s report has been largely wasted.
    I agree with most of Ray’s analysis shudder to think that a Fact Finder would suggest an employee’s compensation should be tied to the wealth of the district. In this Fact Finder’s world the price of a hair cut would be determined by the purchaser’s net worth. This fact Finder glosses over the accepted method of determining whether compensation is adequate that was central to the District’s position – the wages currently paid by the District are among the highest in the area, attract qualified applicants for any openings in the District and even with the proposed freeze would compare favorably to those paid by other area school districts.
    I foresee the same sequence of events that played out in Unionville – a year of labor unrest before both sides find an acceptable solution.

    1. Have you been to a Main Line Hair salon? The price of a haircut is outrageous and the numerous salons in this area are booked! I would contend that the price of a haircut is tied to the net worth of the individual. We have some of the best coiffed women and the best educated children in Pennsylvania. Education and grooming are not commodities! They are, however, different. When you get a bad haircut, it will grow back, temporary damage only.

      In reality, we do pay more for most things because we get a higher quality item or better service than we would otherwise. You get what you pay for, so they say.

      We should be proud to have the most qualified teaching staff arguably in the state. Our children go on to attend some of the most prestigious universities in the country. Are the tuitions the same at “Average University” and Yale? Again, you get what you pay for.

      The district’s reputation contributes to our home values; our home values, in the long run, contribute to our families’ wealth. We should not be short-sighted in this debate. When looking for a home, one of the most determining factors is the school district and its reputation. Look at the real estate brochures; headlining most is the “award winning” school district. We are not Unionville.

      Instead of taking away from the very individuals who care for and educate our children, we need to find alternative funding sources for our schools; we need to contact our current legislators; we need to make informed decisions when casting our ballots in the future. As taxpayers and parents, we need to be proactive in finding a solution to our district’s problems. Rhetoric is cheap! We need to open a lemonade stand, do something. Whenever there is a contentious fight, some party comes out the “loser”. Who do we want to be the “loser” in this year long battle you foresee? Hopefully, it will not be our children or their teachers.

      1. TT,
        I see we have a difference of opinion.
        I’m unconcerned when the price of a Main Line hair cut is exorbitant. If I so choose, I can travel a few miles to where the price is reasonable. Not so with schools – I can’t choose where to send my school taxes.
        There are many situations where “you get what you pay for”, but study after study will tell you that teacher compensation is not one of them. If teacher compensation were correlated with academic performance we’d expect Lower Merion students to far out perform TE students. As you might know, LM salaries are far higher than TE salaries, but the academic performance is comparable.
        When looking for a new home, I agree that the academic performance of a school is an important factor. I hear you advocating for higher taxes to cover increased teacher compensation so academic performance can be maintained or increased. The myth that academic performance is enhanced by higher salaries has been addressed above. What we’re left with in your scenario is higher taxes with no resultant increase in academic performance. Please realize that the most direct and immediate way to reduce a home’s value is to increase taxes. .
        I would hope the negotiations would end in compromise where both sides feel they won something and lost something. I’d like to hear who you think should be the “loser”.

        1. I believe the topic of haircuts was initiated by your blog. I was merely pointing out that comparing funding education to shopping for a salon is really not relevant. I apologize for not being more straight forward in my comment, but instead presenting a ludicrous argument that is actually logically sound in response to your comment.

          I do not see how a year of “labor unrest” is something that should be taken so lightly. Such unrest could be costly. To avoid any one party being the loser, this situation should be resolved in a timely fashion, so that all involved can get on with the education of our youth – that includes the Board as well as the teachers. As we all know, the Board is charged with other important functions in addition to contracting with the teachers. For example, there are matters of curriculum, increased state testing and facilites usage and maintenance. A prolonged negotiations process wil provide one clear winner and that will be Mr. Sultanik. Do we know how much we are paying this individual and how his fee is contributing to the educational process?

        2. Hi TT,
          Let’s set the haircut analogy aside for now. What I was trying to point out was that somehow teacher compensation has been able to evade the price determining power of supply and demand. There an overwhelming supply, decreased demand, but the price continues to rise.
          I do not take “labor unrest” lightly. I, too, think it should be “resolved in a timely fashion”. The Board has proposed a solution; the union has proposed a solution – what is your solution?
          Again, calling attention to the negotiator’s fee is counterproductive. He is only one of many paid employees of the Board who follows their direction. If you feel it necessary to blame someone for the negotiations stalemate, direct it toward either the Board or the union.

      2. my hair “salon” just moved to a new fancier location. Raised my fee…I have a simple hair cut. 15 minutes. I found another stylist. Just went to ER. Fortunately I am fine. By the way, Paoli Hospital is a great place. True I feel good about them because I checked out ok, but the drs and nurses and everyone was attentive. I got an x ray in ten minutes. Blood, ekg the whole package. Very comforting to know we have this resource in our back yard.

        Oh yes.. I paid 100 dollar deductible on my way out. I am not a teacher.

        1. I seem to remember from an earlier discussion on this very blog that the teacher ER copay on the current plan IS $100.

      3. Point of reference: tuitions at just any old private university are every bit as high as Yale. Higher in many cases since schools like Yale have bigger endowments and therefore can provide more aid.

        In our system, you pay for education in proportion to what you paid for your house. want a big house, pay bigger taxes. want low taxes, little house or another district.

  5. This smacks of the logic of a juror deciding that a corporate defendant should pay because it is a corporation, and therefore wealthy, regardless of the facts of the case. I agree with the above comments.

    We live in an entitlement society. I dont know anybody who doesnt pay at least 20% of the cost of their health insurance coverage. Where did this notion come from that teachers and other public employees should get better benefits than the taxpayers who fund their jobs?

  6. The district has opened its books to donations from citizens. There is nothing from stopping anyone from donating. Save a Life: Subsudize a Deductible. ( never mind, their plan has ZERO deductibles. It is first dollar covered, with only a copay, no co-insurance. Mainline hair salons have rigorous training programs, and they still make a fraction of what they charge. But if you go to Salon D’Artiste, they have prices. They don’t ask what you can afford. TE has solid compensation plans and excessive benefits. Compensation has two components: Attract qualified candidates and Retain high performing candidates, Bonus in a merit system would reward and encourage top performers.
    We have no shortage of applicants. People aren’t leaving en masse for another district. We offer X for compensation; we pay 20% of X towards FICA, Medicare and SS. We pay for life insurance and disability insurance…and the district is demanding a greater cost sharing for an expensive benefit plan. greater to the point that they will pay for the employees but expect the employees toick up the additional costs of their dependents.

    Instead of gnashing teeth over who pays what, me and my. Ow dead horse would like to suggest once again that the TESD put a number on the table per employee for benefits. TEEA can work with PSEA and personnel and countless creative brokers to design a plan that would meet the needs of someone living in this community, and the could identify coverages, copays and deductibles to get the premium to a level the defined contribution would cover. The sensitivity testing to the plan would have a lower cost for higher dedictlbles and copays, or a higher cost for minimal deductibles and copays, This sliding scale would not alter the benefit– simply tailor the plan to a cost-benefit balance by employee. Would the TEEA like to have a speaker on this topic that could outline the options and opportunities? You can go onto several govern,ent websites and see the hundreds of permutations and combinations that come together to make your employer contribution go far, and make your cost-sharing relevant to your USE. It’s health insurance, not health coverage. A distinction with a difference. Good luck.

  7. Once again it seems as though OUR Teachers need to take one for the team. We can only strip so much from them before we will begin to lose our staff. I know…there are hundreds, no thousands of qualified teachers lined up to take their jobs.

    If we are so financially desperate lets just lay off the entire staff and higher them back at half time. I’m sure ALL of those other qualified teachers looking for work will just come running to TE to teach half time (minus benefits) and to be part of some thing really special!

    Time and time again I read these quotes on this board that basically imply our teachers are not the Cog in our educational process. We need to collectively step back and take a long hard look at this situation without pulling our own personal experience into our thought process.

    Because you pay 20% in health care doesn’t mean they (our teachers) should. Should we pay them a performance bonus, provide them with a company car, fuel cards as well as stock options?

    This is not the corporate world people.

    I like paying taxes about as much as the rest of you but my heavens I know my children are getting the benefit of a private school education at an incredibly reasonable cost. We are ranked third in the state. I’ll say it again, Third in the State!

    The teachers are not the reason we are in this financial situation to begin with. The last contract was agreed upon and signed into action by the very board members attempting to right their wrongs. Were they forced to sign?

    For years, when times were good and the real estate transfer faucet was running with what seemed to be an endless supply of returns our board should have used better judgement when it came to taxing the community. Consistent increases over time would have been much better than trying to make up for their past mistakes all at once.

    Partner this with cuts in state funding and a reduction in real estate transfers and what do we have here? The board has some issues to deal with. Instead of pointing fingers and making our Teachers out to be money hungry sharks lets try to work together to come up with a real solution. Where were all of these what if models five years ago? Now we have these models projecting financial ruin…..dooms day is coming!

    To date I have only seen cuts being offered and proposed by our board. We have a surplus of the likes other districts can not begin to fathom. How did we gain such a surplus in the first place? We surely didn’t throw our teachers a bone back when times were good but now lets beat them over the head with cuts, threats and disregard. I find this behavior upsetting and frankly embarrassing.

    Meanwhile, for now, we still benefit from a school district that prepares our children to attend some of the finest colleges in the UNITED STATES as well as providing US with solid and attractive property values. When you plan to sell your home I bet the first feature listed will be that your home is located in the Award Winning T.E. School District instead of boasting that your home has Solar Power upgrades. Right? Come on now….fess up.

    Wake up people! Put your bias aside for a moment.

    I am shocked at the repeated disregard for our teachers and their families. Really? We are in such financial ruin that we can no longer cover our teacher’s families? Really? This is down right awful, disrespectful and a slap in the face of every teacher who educates OUR children.

    Will our Admin get to enjoy these very same disrespectful benefits?

    Proud to be a T.E. parent…………for now.

    1. Moral, you contradict yourself in the above post.

      You talk about how the last contract was signed when times were good and was the board forced to sign? That was when times were good. Yet, when times are tough and the board asks for shared sacrifice (and yes, it is shared, because I see students taking cuts all the time – programs, activity fees, increased class size, shall I continue?), the teachers are incapable? The teachers benefited when times were good, but now they should also benefit because they deserve raises inconsistent with the rest of the world?

      The board CANNOT raise revenue above the law. The benefits in the contract are GREATER than the maximum tax increase allowed. Where should the money come from? Now. Tomorrow. To balance the budget in a few months?

      You are right… teaching isn’t the corporate world. The corporate world:

      – doesn’t have raises at the same level as teachers (there is no COLA increase).

      – works all year and does not have the ability to have their summers off or work incremental jobs over the summer to earn extra money.

      – doesn’t have ‘defined’ hours and ‘defined’ periods to teach and can file a grievance if they disagree. ***

      – is ’employment at will’ and doesn’t have the union to protect jobs.

      – gives employees raises based on performance, not seniority.

      – doesn’t have $4 million in their 401K when they retire – however, public school employees have that equivalent.

      Have you seen this article?

      Public Sector Millionaires

      $4 million. That’s how much you need in your 401k plan to retire at the same annual retirement pay as a typical police officer, teacher, or transit worker manager in the northeast.

      However you slice it, teachers (in the Northeast) and police officers and many government workers are millionaires.

      I’m not talking about exceptions. I’m talking about millionaires made up of every single police officer, teacher, transit worker at a manager level, and most bureaucrats in New York (assuming they work 25 years or more).

      How is it that you can work 37 weeks a year, and work 25 years, retire at age 50 or 55, and have the equivalent of $4 million in your 401k? Simple. Have taxpayers pay for it on your behalf. And I’m not talking about having the 1% paying for it. I’m talking about the construction worker, the secretary, the Starbucks barista, the cashier at your local Stop and Shop. Public sector workers are literally stealing from our citizenry, and shamefully do so with a clear conscience (it should be noted that these workers hide behind their unions, and so we complain about the “teacher’s union” rather than “teachers”. But make no mistake, teachers fund and vote in that union and it is “teachers” who are perpetrating this).


      We need public sector workers to operate under the same terms that private sector citizens do. Their number of working years, retirement pay, healthcare benefits, and job security should be similar to that of the citizens that fund their compensation. Anything more or less is unfair and should not be tolerated.

      ***for the record, I think our teachers are great. Not all of them, but most. I think many work above and beyond the hours required to get the job done – but I’ve also been horrified at some of the grievances filed about teaching vs. prep time.

    2. Moral
      WHY do you think that the beneficiaries of platinum benefits are being hammered when asked to pay for them. Compensation includes salary, benefits, pension, FICA and Medicare, and all kinds of time compensated (sick days, personal days). And yet, the on,y way the TEEA tracks compensation is by the increase on base salary. That’s it. The district taxpayers absorb every single cost with no recognition of increases. And you say there is a bias?
      I have said before the $4M figure to generate a $100K a year pension after 35 years of work, plus social security, plus a buy out off unused sick days, and that pension is free of state income taxes.

      Are they worth it? We don’t get to decide, because they are tenured and paid on seniority and advanced degrees (which taxpayers also purchased on their behalf). The saying you only get what you pay for? I’m willing to risk that. I’d be willing to let a few go before they get their 1 year $18K raise –(there is one of those steps on the 2012 salary schedule).

      Not getting a raise is NOT a hardship.

      1. TT- you say it will cost $4M to support a teacher’s pension. How much will is cost to support Dr. Water’s pension. You seem to have had no problem with his compensation package. How much will it cost to generate a $240K pension after 35 years of work?

        1. Again about something other than the teacher negotiations. Dr. Waters has an individual contract. He is paid based on his personal performance. if you think his salary is wrong, lay that on the board, but there is nothing to do about it and it has NO RELEVANCE to the issue. The article would certainly reflect ALL employee pensions. We, the taxpayers, would like the TEEA to recognize the value of their PACKAGE and not just their base salary.

  8. So now we’ve settled in to our positions with little new to say, although Keith’s response to TT is a calm, fact-based note that I wish I had written. Moral Compass on the other hand has only emotional rhetoric – “let’s just lay off the whole staff” and “we didn’t throw our teachers a bone when times were good” – what was that last contract, then?

    How can anyone think that TESD is uniquely immune from the forces sweeping local government? Nationwide, eleven consecutive quarterly drops in state and local government spending and investment, a near-tripling in pension contributions as a percent of payroll in the last decade, cities declaring bankruptcy. Locally, Waterloo Gardens – icon of the Main Line – reportedly has revenue declines of 80% in 2010, 12% in 2011 and 20% 2012 YTD, closes its Devon store and declares bankruptcy.

    One item from Thursday that I have not seen reported here: the vote on Thursday was 7-2. I’m looking forwards to the explanations that Ms Graham and Ms Crowley provide for their votes, and in particular their financial plans to prevent deficits. As I recall, Ms Graham ran in the last election on a Republican platform of no tax increases.

    1. Ray, although I mentioned the vote count and Chris Graham and Anne Crowley by name, there’s another point — Graham is Republican and Crowley a Democrat. Although the school board is supposed to be politically neutral, after the last election (yellow signs, etc) I think we would be naive not to acknowledge that politics does matter. I’m wondering how the local GOP feels about Ms. Graham’s vote. A recently retired Radnor school teacher, I think she voted her conscience on behalf of the ‘sisterhood’ (brotherhood) of teachers, rather than considering any political ramifications.

      1. Thanks for the reminder, Pattye. Am I totally naive in thinking that it is more than the usual political chicanery to vote completely counter to the policies of the party that endorsed your election?

        1. Perhaps now the electorate will understand that political affiliation means nothing once elected. parties endorse from a small pool of interested applicants…Chris Graham is a teacher…that’s the only thing in play. And her vote cost nothing as there were not 5 votes to carry the motion. Sigh.

      2. I am elated tha one of the Board may have made a decision on the merits rather than “any political ramifications”. I expect ALL Board members to make the right decision REGARDLESS of political ramifications but sadly we see that this Board only makes decisions based on political ramifications……… sad

        1. Voting for the fact finder’s report was writing a check the district cannot cash. It’s not about politics…it’s about fitness for the job. Clearly these two ladies threw out an olive branch …especially knowing their vote was nothing more than a gesture…3 votes short of having any meaning at all.

    2. FYI It is my understanding that Waterloo Gardens’ demise was a result of family issues after the death of the matriarch holding it all together. Their landscaping business failed to thrive after the exit of another pivotal leader. Her new business, BTW, is booming. The gardens in my neighborhood are beautiful, many maintained by professional gardeners.

      1. TT — obfuscation. WHY do you reference Sultanik but don’t care that everyone else works for free? These are big stakes…and professionals are worth it to represent more than just taxpayers; board members have lives outside the board room and get nothing for the privilege of trying to make this all work.

        Same song, same lyrics. NO money to pay for what the teachers or the FF suggest. STOP with the reserves, they are claimed. And to use the for recurring expenses like salaries is comparable to a home equity loan to pay your electric bill. You use revenue to pay for expenses.
        And I’m delighted that you have gardeners working in your neighborhood. I doubt that they can afford to live there though…and with only 20% of taxpayers actually having kids in the schools, that means only 80% of our community are paying the bills.

  9. The school board and the community are not trying to renig on an active contract. The previous signed contract has run its course, those terms have ended, and it is time to negotiate a new contract which will live for a set period of time. There should be no entitlement to terms of the previous contract which was negotiated in a very different economic climate. The new contract needs to be sustainable by the revenue. The revenue is much lower than yester year and will remain so even as the taxpayers are levied with maximum tax increases. The school board cannot continue to enter into contracts that promise a high level of compensation and benefits that are far superior to those earned by the taxpayers in this community. Yes, we are saying the teachers’ and administrators’ terms need to change because the revenue of yester year is simply not there. The community is asking for fairness in the next round of negotiations. Terms of the previous contract can no longer be the yardstick to measure future contract terms.

    1. “future contract terms” – lets just make sure that the contract being signed is not a long term contract. How can we predict what the state of the economy will be in 12, 24, 36 months. We know what we are bringing in in taxes right now, and we need to build a contract based on this and only this.

      Building contracts on expected economy conditions 36 months down the road is what makes the contract that just ended so poor.

  10. Nothing shocking here, and it will always be a sticking point going further. People can say that we can’t increase revenue and that we are tapped out, but we still remain one of the top 10 districts in terms of wealth and we are somewhere in the bottom 50 of the entire state (out of more than 500) in terms of taxes. We have gone a good decade or so with very low tax rates as we’ve been lucky to live off the transfer tax bonanza. No EIT. And when our taxes do go up, as they did recently, it still was only about another $100-$200 per year. But we still then complain that that’s too much, even though the teacher pay freeze over the last half of the year cost each teacher $1000-$4000, of which many on here scoffed at because they did still get an eventual raise (as if that money they didn’t get would magically reappear). The problem here is that many don’t value teachers at all (plenty of views on this board that the teachers don’t matter and anyone in their place could generate the same results), many don’t want to pay a nickel more in an already shockingly low tax committment, and that the teachers clearly have perks and benefits to their job that we would all like. But I don’t see how this gets resolved by denying family coverage and asking for pay decreases across the board, and not increasing revenue in any substantial way. I don’t see how this gets resolved anytime soon, and by that I mean a couple of years at least.

    1. So draft the referendum…campaign for it. ASK the community to vote an extra tax increase or a new tax…..but wear your bulletproof vest when you go door to door….The referendum might win. seriously, it might. But have you heard a Tea Party rant lately? (and I do differentiate that from R or D).

    2. TE Observer,

      Honestly, it doesn’t matter what we WANT to pay in taxes. The reality is there is a law that states the maximum revenue – taxes + lawful tax increase (~3% this past year).

      The math just doesn’t work.

      How do you pay for a contract that has 10% increase in cost when you can only raise taxes 3% ? (not actual numbers, but an example). You cut programs to the students. Programs have been cut, activity fees have been added, class sizes have been increased.

      Please tell me, where does the money come from?

      Don’t say the fund balance – that is already spent on future year pension commitments. As we’ve seen GENEROUS pensions.

  11. Wow, great spirited debate…this is a part of how communities come together to solve difficult issues in which we all share a stake ….
    My sense of the FF report now is that it is only an interim step meant to get the parties back to talking…hard to believe one of these reports is ever actually accepted by both sides as a contract. It would be near impossible to hit 19 issues (or even the big ones) with just the right compromise position to get both sides on board.
    My review of the “Findings” is not all that positive. The fact finder did not support many of his opinions with facts and research and, instead, seemed to be influenced by his feelings on the wealth of the taxpayers in the District. Our “economically privileged” district as he puts it. Taxpayers may be pretty inflamed about that as it seems to indicate that this “privilege” is not the result of individual initiative and hard work. Regardless, I think the sentiment detracts from the findings in the report.
    The big bug-a-boo is health care costs and the related employee contribution…this is where the District’s proposals seek expense savings. At least we know that the topic is open to discussion from the two party’s initial proposals. This will be the subject of continuing negotiations and a solution IS in there.
    My final take, for anyone still reading, is that this is an example of how hard it is to “Put the Genie Back in the Bottle”. The current contract signed on June 18, 2008 allowed average professional salary increases of 30.8% and benefits increases of around 25% in a recession and slow recovery. This is not the Union’s fault but a poor contract signed by Management. Now, in the aftermath of paying for these compensation increases (which total about $16 MM over the contract period…86% paid for by local property tax revenue); Management needs to change the paradigm or risk financial failure. Tough to put The Genie Back in the Bottle… The only thing that hasn’t changed is Management itself…think about it. Look at the tenure of some of the Board, look at who negotiatied the last contract, look at who will decide this contract’s details…

  12. The primary voices in anything financial are Kevin Mahoney(CFO or something close at the Penn Health Systems) who has left the board, and Betsy Fadem, a professional volunteer who has taken over finance. Both were key figures in the “college bonus” inadvertently made permanent to the Superintendent. But the remainder on the board are not numbers people, and they have the administrators (who came up through the teaching ranks and whose benefit plans are tied to the teachers plans). The Business manager is also on the team, but he is certainly less likely to “negotiate”
    This will only get resolved if the TEEA accepts that the TESD has bought every contract for the past 30 years, and now it is their turn to offer a discount or a refund. Sound tough? CHANGE the health care plan. Add deductibles and co-insurance. Work with a competitive broker to price out other plans with a focus on insurance, not first dollar coverage. Put an out of pocket maximum to protect the employee from a catastrophic experience.
    I have a grown child working for the US gov’t. Fascinating watching him learn about costs. LOW premium, higher risk. HIGH premium, lower risk. His premium has done down in each subsequent enrollment period as he has identified what life costs him, and he takes the lower premium because that is a sure thing, and he is reasonable healthy. This year his price was zero, as it reflects a plan that his employer covers at 100% because that’s their defined contribution.

    BOARD and TEACHERS: Is anyone working on this? Call me and I’ll come do it.

  13. Let’s conjecture about the elements of the Fact Finder Report that encourage the School Board that “provide a structural framework to move contract negotiations forward”. Maybe a key one might lead to health benefit reform along the lines that TR has been advocating?

    The Board had proposed plan C4-F4-02, 20% employee share, the TEEA C2-F2-02, 7-8% employee share. The Fact Finder recommends both plans, with a higher employee share (10% in year 2) of the more expensive plan. Let’s leave aside for the moment the crucial financial implications of the exact amounts of employee premium share and plan prescription reimbursement….. Maybe if coupled with TR’s notion that the district can pay $x,000 for healthcare coverage, some menu like this might incent employees to pick lower cost plans that benefit both themselves and the District?

    Anyone else find any of “the report’s many positive elements”?

  14. Ray,
    I don’t see a quick solution.
    The Board’s philosophy is that teachers are well compensated with the current contract as noted by the ability to attract and retain excellent employees – there is no need to increase compensation. The Board would like to see a salary freeze and a lower cost healthcare plan with a higher employee cost share to compensate for the large rise in PSERS contributions. Let’s surmise a Board offer of a salary freeze, and a C2F2O2 plan for all family members with a 15% cost share.
    The union would, at a minimum, like not-to-go-backward. The union leadership would look at the Board’s offer and note that their salary is frozen and their paycheck has shrunk due to the increased healthcare cost share (8% to 15%) for an inferior plan. Thus, the union is better off with the status quo (salary frozen with the superior healthcare plan and an 8% cost share).
    My guess is that TE will be in status quo for the next year while pressure builds on both sides for a settlement. The union will use labor action (rally ’round the flag pole, work to contract) . The Board will use the possibility of demotions and furloughs to balance the budget in the 2013-14 school year.

    1. The union may prefer the status quo in the short term, but I wonder if they are looking over at Neshaminy to see what happens if that drags on? The requirements for healthcare benefit cost sharing are unchanged, yet any claim on past and future make-up salary increases looks more and more outrageous, and there is no more money to go around.

      I think that the union would be much better off to make a play for as much of the fund balance as they can get now, as part of a transition to a package that has a 0-2% aggregate compensation increase, lower cost health coverage, performance incentives at the bottom end of the scale – and balances the budget, assuming max allowable tax increases.

  15. John
    Analysis of the problem is unrelated to solving the problem. The FF presumes revenue that is not available. I too have lamented the lack of vision or strategy with this board for almost a decade–from the time they ignored an existing option and gifted Dr. Waters with the tuition bonus. But being right isn’t retroactive, so the TEEA has to give back. The silly offer on benefits from both sides ignores reality. But there is no incentive for the TEEA to move unless teachers on steps 1-7 or so push for it. I really don’t believe the board has many options, and no other way to reduce fixed costs but to demote and furloughh. Keep good jobs and lose great ones.

    1. And Understanding what got you here contributes little to finding a solution….except for the age old definition of insanity….which is what so many analysts ignore. Suggesting that the TEEA is being short-changed in the health care offer does not put an affordable offer on the table.

  16. Even though public education is not driven to produce a profit margin, there is no honor in spending every penny of revenue. Supply and demand cannot be ignored. This school district can no longer support status quo without drastic measures. The community is looking for fair compensation plans and fair benefits. On this blog I’ve read many comments that the School Board has “allowed” excessive terms to be included in contracts over the past 10 years (shame on me for not paying attention this past decade). We need a strategy to “get the genie back in the bottle” and “claw back what it has given over the past 10+ years”. Supply and demand is the backbone to determining and negotiating that strategy. Contracts live and die. The last contract can no longer be the starting point for the next contract expecially when the economic climate has changed so drastically for the taxpayer base. Shame on anyone that works via a contract and does not understand that! The economic down turn has placed the terms of the new contract under a microscope, which has not happened over the past decade. No one likes their buying power being decreased, but that is reality for may in the taxpayer base. That situation may have to pay forward to the teachers and administrators. Let’s not forget this school district has many intangible benefits that can keep staff in the district. We are a focused, hardworking, driven, supportive community that brings focused, hardworking, driven students into our schools. That is not evidenced in a paycheck, but it sure makes for a pleasant working environment.

  17. John
    You are trained as a lawyer. You just take a side. Not sure what you believe. You say something won’t work, but don’t offer an alternative, and ignore the need for a solution to the impasse. The FF report was not reflective of facts. But regardless, opinions about fairness aside, thank you CP for your comments. You are IMO spot on.

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