Pattye Benson

Community Matters

T/E Teachers Contract Not yet Public

The TESD held its regular monthly school board meeting last night. I was unable to attend but Ray Clarke attended and forwarded his notes from the meeting. There had been much speculation about whether or not the public would see the tentative agreement between the District and the teachers union, TEEA. The agreement was not available last night but the residents were told that TEEA will vote to ratify the agreement by October 11. Therefore, as a result the school board has scheduled a special school board meeting for October 15 at 7 PM, before the previously scheduled Finance Committee meeting, which has now moved to 7:30 PM.

Ray asked the board if the public would see the contract before the school board vote and they said it would be available at the meeting and the public would have a chance to comment before the vote. As Ray says in his notes, “We’ll have to do some speedy analysis in the allotted 30 minutes”. Ray’s questions to the school board were fielded by the solicitor, who offered “a lot of legalese about ‘labor relations case law’ and prejudicing the TEEA vote, while never explaining exactly how those factors would operate to adversely impact the district and its taxpayers”. I am pleased to know that school board member Rich Brake attempted a thoughtful explanation as to the rationale behind not providing the complete information at this point but with a commitment of a thorough explanation in the meeting before the vote.

However, Ray writes, “Kevin Buraks, on the other hand, used the recent property purchase as an example of the need for the secrecy, which of course proves my point rather than his! That draft contract [Old Lancaster Rd. property purchase] – negotiated privately directly between the parties, of course was made available to the public a full week-end before the ratification vote”. If you recall last month, I was surprised to see the property purchase of the house on Old Lancaster on the school board agenda. Its agreed that there had been much discussion over the years about that remaining property and the need to purchase it – just came as a surprise and a little unsettling how the property purchase was seemingly buried in the bottom of the agenda. The agreement of sale identified the property as 892 Old Lancaster Avenue, the seller as the Estate of Arthur Fennimore, and the price as $265K.

Ray’s noted the school board’s updated communications objectives for 2012-13 as including the communication of “milestones”, not substance. He reminds that it is this board of nine that “completely determines the budget, programs and taxes”. I was hopeful that the school district was moving forward in the direction of transparency but there certainly appears to be a sense of mystery surrounding the contents of the teachers’ agreement. My guess is that the school board believes in the ‘less is more’ approach when dealing with the public. Their theory appears to be the less that we [public] know, the less that we [public] can then question.

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  1. Hmmm. I wish I had been there to hear the explanation from the solicitor concerning why the offer can’t be made public. Logically, if the board can make the agreement public 30 minutes before the vote, they can make it public 30 hours or 30 days before the vote.
    My guess is that the Board is accepting terms that they previously told the public and the union were unaffordable using the 5 year projection and, therefore, unacceptable. Now they have to reverse course and provide an explanation why this agreement is good for the public.
    The union leadership has a similar problem. They have probably agreed to terms that they previously told their members [and the board] were unacceptable. Now the leadership has to reverse course and provide an explanation why this agreement is good for the rank-and-file.
    The “selling” of the agreement is easier for both sides when the details are not available until after the vote. I don’t agree with keeping things secret until after the vote, but I understand why it is typically done.

  2. On the positive side –
    Multiple offers have been made public which is a marked improvement over the last negotiations.
    The public has had a month to analyze and comment on the board’s latest [August] offer. If the August offer is similar to the tentative agreement, it could be argued that the public has had a chance to give input before the vote. What’s missing, however, is the Board’s justification for the tentative agreement and an analysis as to whether it is affordable.

  3. Excellent analysis from Keith.

    I suppose the selling is easier because the truth can be obscured in the absence of objective analysis from the public. Certainly both sides will have made compromises they previously deemed unacceptable.

    I sincerely hope that the formal vote is accompanied by “the Board’s justification for the tentative agreement and an analysis as to whether it is affordable”.

    One other observation from the Board meeting: Betsy Fadem made a point to reinsert into the district objectives language regarding study of an EIT. Dan Waters had removed last year’s language from his draft for 2012/13. This is not the first time Mrs Fadem has spoken up to keep an EIT on the table. I wonder if this might be part of an “understanding” with the union?

  4. The Tredyffrin residents that work in surrounding townships are paying, if I recall correctly, $3 million to support the infrastructure and education in those townships instead of our own. Why are our residents supporting education there instead of here. Tredyffrin is unique in the area in not collecting EIT and I am sure our neighboring townships love that. Having no EIT most favors the higher earning township residents that both live and work here. It most affects the top 2% wage earners in Tredyffrin. Where have I heard that before?

    It is time to bring this $3 million in EIT revenue home to Tredyffrin. Taking this action can also avoid raising property taxes which affects retired residents on fixed incomes.

    EIT seems the reasonable and fair thing to do unless perhaps you are one of the 2% high income earners in Tredyffrin.

    I wonder how many of our township supervisors and school board members earn their income in Tredyffrin? A good question to ask the next time this issue is up in front of them.

  5. Living or working here would result in paying it — why make it sound conspiratorial that rich people don’t want it? As I said above, perhaps school board members won’t take the bait (I did challenge that decision in the last election — for people running for office to pledge not to put it on the ballot?!) and let the residents decide.
    Your conclusion that $3M goes elsewhere matters little to those who don’t want their income taxed. Let’s let voters decide it though. A case can clearly be made to implement one, but only the voters can authorize it for the school district. The township rate is already so low that it would be silly for them to pursue it.

  6. TE residents soundly rejected an EIT referendum in 2007 when the economy was roaring and residents were guaranteed a dollar for dollar reduction in RE taxes.
    What are the chances that an EIT will pass in 2013 when the economy is stagnant and the EIT revenue just adds on top of the existing RE taxes providing a bigger pot of money for politicians to distribute?

    1. I don’t think you can fairly compare a referendum now to 2007. After years of tightening and the knowledge that taxes have to be raised to keep pace with contractual obligations (another topic of course), the EIT seems to me like it would impact far fewer residents than the RE tax increase, and the township and school districts therefore get more bang for their buck. I would vote for it in a heartbeat, and I am sure many others would too. Sure, people would also vote against it, but I think when fully educated about the options, it is a positive choice. The challenge is getting people interested enough to educate them, since a ballot will not explain the pros and cons.

    2. I think the point of the hypothetical is that it’s tiring hearing people complain we don’t have one….I’ve been in the angry mob meetings….I cannot imagine we will ever have one.

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