Over on Community matters, there was some reference made to Abington’s budget process — somewhat with envy it seemed. It’s always good to learn more about other districts — but perhaps a point of pride is in place for me about Tredyffrin Easttown School District. I really want to separate the District from the decisions of the sitting school board. I did my time on the board so I am not about to scrutinize their decisions individually, but let’s just say that there have been several things they have done over the past 5 years I would have opposed. But I’m not on the board anymore — and when I was, I struggled to get the public at large interested in anything we did. It’s constituency-driven politics — not squeaky wheel exactly, but certainly absent any scrutiny of their actions, sometimes the decisions are as “real world” driven as they should be. I have said before — I believe this economy will cause a “market correction” and salaries, benefits and bonuses — things like “retention bonuses” especially, will be a thing of the past.
The sitting board also knows that I believe that the taxpayers and district were not well served when I left the board and the members who continued and those who were new rejected any efforts or input from me before they did the next teacher contract. I had personally negotiated the terms of the expiring contract, and had completely orchestrated the administrative compensation plan. I believe their lack of interest in accepting feedback damaged the continuity of the process — as they made changes to things they had no history of. I’m not saying they were not earnest in their efforts, but having reviewed the documents since my departure, there are a lot of gaps in the thinking. I believe would have helped in continuity. The Union meets in Hershey every summer to develop a state-wide strategy for negotiating. Board members rarely ask for advice — and don’t even talk to other boards in most cases. Such a deal….it sounds like I think I was irreplaceable -and I absolutely do not. My phrase then — no matter how big the boat, it doesn’t create a hole when you take it out of the ocean. I believe that. But I do think that history is critical in negotiations — and the negotiations that followed Carol Aichele ‘s and my departures were done with a new solicitor (our previous solicitor had died in an accident) and without benefit of background. So I do think some of the personnel costs that are under attack cannot be adequately explained much less defended. But they are what they are. I would be happy to address any details that I am aware of.
Anyway — there were references to Abington and their commitment to keeping curricular issues and programs intact — a reference made to a quote that they only look to cut “stufff” — as well as the revelation that their Superintendent was selected Superintendent of the Year. Congratulations to Dr. Amy Sichel, the ASD Superintendent and winner of one of 10 awards for National Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award.
Here are details: eSchool News, a national monthly publication specializing in educational technology, notified Dr. Amy Sichel that she is a national winner in the 2010 Tech-Savvy Superintendent competition. The Tech-Savvy Superintendent program honors K-12 educators who have displayed exemplary vision in the use of technology to further the goals of educating today’s students and equipping them with 21st century skills. Six hundred applications were received by eSchool News, and only 10 winners from across the country were named. The headline proclaiming her status as Superintendent of the Year may be a bit hyperbole — but the award is certainly wonderful for Dr. Sichel and brought with it grant money and more.
I bring up this particular district because even referencing it in our budget discussions seems incongruous with the issues at hane. It is such an example of greener grass — as some posters elsewhere have included Inquirer information about how they go about their budget. Last year, their millage actually “dropped.” Actually, their millage for now is 27.09 mills, down from 27.29 the previous year. That’s on property only. One small point left out — Abington has an earned income tax of .5% — so you would need to look at their budgets, not their millage, to understand what their revenues were forecast to be.
On SchoolDigger.com, TESD is ranked #6 in PA (NCES statistics) Abington is ranked 128th. TESD’s millage is 17.47. Our CLR is .53 in Chester County and the Abington CLR in Montgomery County is .54 — so you can see my other tax calculations to figure it out:
On a house with a fair market value of $500,000 — the assessed value should be .54 of that number: $270,000 (the same assessment as Lower Merion and Upper Merion on a similarly priced home)
The millage on that house would cost $7,314.30 plus .5% earned income tax. Another house bargain discovered? Remember that the 17.47 millage on a house valued at $500,000 in TESD has a tax bill of $4629.55 .
Northern suburb of Philadelphia in Montgomery County
- Includes Abington Township and Borough of Rockledge
- 15.2 square miles, primarily residential
- Total population: 56,444District Organization/Enrollment 2009-2010
|Elementary schools (K-6)||3,774|
|Junior high school (7-8-9)||1,739|
|Senior high school (10-11-12)||1,923|
Professional staff positions: 633.3 Supporting staff positions: 420.9
|Budget Item||Total||Federal Funds
included in total
included in total
included in total
|Salary Items||$ 71,946,518||$ 472,927||$ 10,703,364||$ 60,770,227|
|Employee Benefits||$ 23,368,932||$ 155,230||$ 4,921,407||$ 18,292,295|
|Non-Salary Items||$ 31,731,955||$ 69,352||$ 4,490,799||$ 27,171,804|
|ARRA Stimulus Reserve||$ 1,533,308||$ 1,533,308||$ 0||$ 0|
Real Estate Tax:
- The 2009-2010 tax rate is set at 27.09 mills. This means that for every $1,000 of assessed property value, $27.09 in school taxes is levied. The millage rate reflects a decrease of .7% when compared to the millage rate for the 2008-2009 school year.Earned Income Tax:
- The 2009-2010 tax rate is set at 0.5%
Items in our budget over which we have little or no control:
- Cyber and charter schools
- Additional enrollment
- Dramatic increases in fuel and utility costs
- Increasing retirement/pension costs
- Increasing medical insurance costs
- Unfunded and underfunded mandated programs including special education classes and other programs and costs
- Low level of state funding for education and decreasing federal funds
- Increasing costs of textbooks, instructional materials, supplies and ever-increasing importance and costs of instructional technology
Future Plans of Graduates (Class of 2009):
- Higher Education: 88%
- Employment: 11%
- Armed Forces: 1%
Once I am able to review their year to year budget, I will advise you whether cutting “stuff” really reduced their expenditure budget as some have claimed…anecdotally. But please read their “things over which we have little or no control” as it’s pretty much true for every district in Pennsylvania.
Tredyffrin Easttown TEEA may be offering some help
There have been posts on other sites that claim that the TEEA offered the TESD board $600,000 to help with this year’s budget problems. Several posters have represented themselves as teachers — members of the union — and have verified that it is their understanding that TEEA offered $600,000 but that the board rejected the offer. The”word” is that the board refused and requested that the Union reopen the contract.
This is very interesting information and certainly represents in theory an overture from the Union that is worthy of further discussion and understanding. As I posted elsewhere, it would be more helpful if the referenced offer that the board allegedly turned down were posted on the TEEA site. It unfortunately has all the symptoms of one of those “if it sounds too goo to be true…”
I don’t want to ruin the party, so I’ll try to be brief in my theoretical analysis. Because I do not have access to any details, I am going to have to ask some questions and make some assumptions based on the narrative about the TEEA offer:
1.PROPOSAL asserts: Teachers offered to give back 3 days of pay, equating that to $1,200 per teacher. My question: Did they agree to work those three days or did they offer to work fewer days than contracted? This year only? Going forward? Those are very different things and would have different implications in how they are implemented.
2. There was a court decision sometime in the 80s I believe that affected compensation — it’s the reason teachers don’t lose money in a strike. That decision basically affirmed that a teacher is a salaried invdividual — and their pay is based on a work year, not on days worked. If the work year is shortened, they still receive a full salary (which is why strikes have no economic impact on members of the teaching members of the bargaining unit)
3. Absent opening the contract to renegotiate days worked, this “give back” (if enforceable — which I doubt) falls into this school year — so contributes savings this year but does nothing to influence next year’s budget. This is government accounting — all the savings would do is go into the “fund balance” and then that would be put towards next year’s budget — but not as revenue but as an interfund transfer. Unless it was a change in the contract, it would exacerbate the increase in spending next year vs. this year.
This is the complexity of contracts and unions and deals that goes on all the time. After the unintended fiasco from Ms. Ciamacca’s email to teachers, I am proud to hear that the TEEA has attempted to mitigate the difficulties. I would really like to understand the details before I stand up and cheer. But in theory, it is a good move. Unfortunately, as I understand school law (and I have been off the board for 10 years), the reality is that as an entity representing the teachers, TEEA cannot “give back” days or salary that are under contract. It is a wonderful gesture, but without knowing the details, I would have to conclude that it is only a gesture. To bind them, they would have to amend the contract that calls for 190 days this year and 191 next year. (I think — not sure of that specific detail)
Adamantt support for not reopening the contract saddens me. Reopening the contract does not have to throw everything open — it’s about trust and honor. Neither side should say they will not reopen if they truly are interested in solving this problem. Living by the spirit of the law is as important as living by the letter of the law. Both parties could “reopen” for the specific purpose of adjusting compensation for days worked, or for adjusting days worked, or to reduce the annual wage numbers by the value of 3 days. I have suggested elsewhere that they reopen to negotiate a different health care plan that would be less expensive — or in fact offer this $1200 per teacher as an increase in co-pay towards health care benefits. Reopening with an agreement in principle does not have to open everything up.
I did a 6 year contract with TEEA as I finished my time on the board. Carol Aichele and I were the negotiators for the school district. Our solicitor had died in a hunting accident and we were without legal representation for the most part. It was a person-to-person effort. We worked with the TEEA leadership, who also did not bring any PSEA reps into the meetings. We agreed on details for the first 3 years of the contract. The final 3 years were left “open” as to compensation. We agreed on parameters that we would live with, and the contract was approved and settled. After the first 3 years, we looked at our matrix and made the adjustments to increments that we believed served both sides well –we added those three years and the contract was completed. It is about trust.
Thoughts? I’d love to see the language of the offer on the TEEAcher.org website. As has been referenced elsewhere that non-residents (teachers) may be denied a chance to speak at the board meeting, if we knew the background, there would be no danger that the community would be eager to speak about it. Union President Deb Ciamacca knows that I am ready and willing to help. We all are.
Posted in Commentary, What Others are Saying
Tagged compensation, excellence, PSEA, unions