We have watched the Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker and his battles with state employees over legislation to take away collective bargaining rights. Walker’s actions hit a cord across the country; public employees are drawing the battleground in Ohio, Florida, from coast to coast. Now we see it in Pennsylvania.
The proposed $1 billion budget cut to public education by Gov. Tom Corbett has driven three teachers unions in the Lehigh Valley area to organize. Because of school district budget deficits and state funding cuts, hundreds of teacher jobs are on the chopping block in the Lehigh Valley . . . the teacher unions are fighting back. In a show of solidarity, 3,500 teachers in the Allentown, Bethlehem Area and Easton Area school districts have voted to unite with union members from the Lehigh Valley Labor Council and Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. The teachers are joining forces with their brothers and sisters in the manufacturing, building and service unions to fight Harrisburg. The AFL-CIO membership in Pennsylvania has 900,000 union workers. Together, the unions believe they need to take a stand for the working middle class family in Pennsylvania.
With organized labor getting behind the teachers, one could guess that means additional financial support to help fight Harrisburg. Union members believing that Corbett’s budget is an attempt to balance the budgets on the backs of the working class, these 1.1 million voices are saying ‘no’ to the Governor and his proposed budget cuts for public education.
Exactly what these ‘voices’ have in mind for Harrisburg is yet to be seen. And I wonder if the TESD teachers will decide on a similar path to the Lehigh Valley teachers as the school board works to balance the district budget and as the calendar moves closer to contract negotiations.
Over the last week, I have been focused on the recent Board of Supervisors decision. I know that some of you were urging me to get back to the school district budget discussion. So for the moment, I’m leaving the unfinished township business and re-focusing front page discussion on our school district. Ray Clarke sent me an interesting note, to look at this week’s agenda of the Public Information committee meeting of TESD. Wasn’t I surprised to read that the sixth item on tomorrow’s committee meeting agenda was ‘The Districts Role in Community Blogs’. I have to assume that this is referring to my Community Matters. I have never attended a Public Information committee meeting but guess where I will be tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM? I have preached greater ‘transparency’ on the School Board website to at least 3 of the current school board members so perhaps tomorrow’s meeting may be the right place for that discussion. Since I will represent myself tomorrow, any particular questions/issues that any of you would like mentioned at the meeting? This could be great starting point for Community Matters to help ‘bridge the gap’ with missing information that taxpayers (and teachers?) might need.
Whether you agree or disagree with the school board’s decision, the district budget for 2010-11 has been capped at the Act 1 index of 2.9% increase. Now I think we need to look at what does working within the Act 1 index mean for the district. What does this mean for the teachers and administration? We know also that it is highly unlikely that teacher contract will be re-opened for negotiations. Where do we stand with the issue of resolving the district deficit? I understand that the administration has come up with a list of proposed cuts . . . anyone know what those proposed cuts are or which programs may be included? And what is the dollar amount on the proposed cuts . . . how much will this lower the budget deficit? And do we know how much of the budget deficit is proposed to come from the district’s capital reserves? Let’s start the conversation rolling . . . I want your thoughts. I am especially interested in public information suggestions/ideas that I can take with me to the committee meeting tomorrow.
The 2010-11 Preliminary Budget will be discussed at tonight’s (Monday, December 14) School Board Finance Committee Meeting, 7:30 PM, Tredyffrin/Easttown Administration Offices (TEAO) at 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1700, Wayne. Here is the Finance Committee Meeting agenda. One of the stated committee goals is to “study implications and impact of converting TE School District to a charter school district” — wonder what that means to the community? I am hoping to receive details post-meeting from some of you who attend. Please read these 2 earlier posts from last month, Looking for School Board Details and Tredyffrin Easttown School District – 7.2% Tax Increase Possible
I’ll be curious if there is any mention of the PA Teachers Pension Fund — see following article:
Friday, December 11, 2009
PA Teachers’ Pension Fund Wants Billions More from Taxpayers
The Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement Fund said today its “plan net assets” used for calculating future pension subsidies shrank to $43 billion at June 30, from $63 billion a year ago.
As a result, PSERS is calling for an 8.22% payroll surcharge on all school payrolls in 2010-11, to be financed by state taxpayers and local property taxpayers, up from this year’s 4.78% levy. Put another way, PSERS wants $1.1 billion next year, up from $617 Million this year, to supplement investment profits and payroll deductions taken from school workers’ checks, so it can pay around $5 billion in annual pensions to retired school workers and administrators.
That’s going to mean either local property tax increases, plus more money from the state’s pinched revenues; or some quick legislating to postpone the problem once again.
PSERS also says the surcharge should go up to 29% of payroll, or more than $4 billion, in 2012-13.
To read more from PSER, click here