Here’s the commentary on this topic as it applies locally– as Mr. Nunn has clearly articulated the problem at the state level.
TESD has nothing to do with setting pension rates. The Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System (PSERS) is a bit like a state-sponsored social security for designated groups of state workers (who also are eligible for and pay social security). The Board of School Directors only negotiates terms of employment — not retirement eligibility. PSERS requires a percentage of compensation to be paid by the employee and the employer — exactly like FICA, but without an annual cap. So each raise for any employee requires additional contributions for FICA, Medicare and PSERS. (the state – yes, your other tax pocket [YOTP], refunds a portion of the contribution for FICA/Medicare).
Here’s the taxpayer’s problem: TE may well have enough “stashed” in fund balance to avoid any staggering tax increase to pay for the increased costs of the state retirement plan Mr. Nunn warns of, but the state doesn’t — so schools are not the only source of this shortfall. YOTP again. What generosity local boards offer to their employees becomes an obligation to the state forever.
Recently, TESD approved an across-the-board compensation increase of 4% for all administrators. Given the teacher’s contract, this was not an extraordinary salary increase. My concern, however, is that it was voted on and approved by the School Board through a consent agenda item in October. October 2008– to go into effect July 2009. (The vote took place several months before the Administration started to warn about the need for cuts due to revenue shortfalls). There has been no mention of merit increases, but the Administrative Compensation plan references them, so they may be yet to come. There are moves being made by administrators — retirements and new job descriptions. I ask that the Board of School Directors deal with these changes in a public motion, and not bury it in consent where we cannot be party to the deliberations. The burden of having your compensation voted on in public is certainly mitigated by tenure and pensions. Transparency should not be something the board fears.
Counting down to the final budget
I’m not going to say much on this anymore — the efforts of the school board are significant and I believe well researched. I do not agree with the “one time” savings being used as part of the strategy (particularly the use of $300K from food service — as not only is that one time, that’s misrepresenting the “pay your way” nature of buying lunch). Anyway, despite all the public scrutiny and hearings and discussion, there is still so much not available without a lot of RTK effort that I am going to rely on the people in charge. Kind of unusual for me — but I spent so long on this board that it’s just too hard for me to attend meetings and have to wait my turn to ask questions….
The state looms on PSERS — and I hope the TESD gives us direction as to how to talk to our legislators about this problem. Otherwise, what TESD is doing is no better than what the PSERS board did — wait and see what happens. Do your best but let the future take care of itself. Sigh. Good luck. EIT / PIT/ Rate increase / negotiations for benefits….we’ve got a good district and insisting on staying inside 2.9% this year because of tough economic times is — in my opinion as an observer and one who has researched tax rates in other districts — short sighted. But not wrong.
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Posted in Commentary
Tagged budget, PSERS, Right to Know