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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Questions regarding the line-item budget and pay freezes

Question: I have followed the budget process and participated in community forums. More than once I have asked what administrators are doing to make sacrifices and cut costs. I asked again on the budget survey where it said these questions would be addressed in Plain Talk. However, I have yet to receive any form of acknowledgment. Now, after looking at the line item budget, I understand why my question has not been addressed. I hope the Board of Education will fulfill their roll by answering this time.

What are administrators doing to help save taxpayer money? Are salaries being frozen? Are positions being cut? It doesn't appear this way. In fact the superintendent is taking a $10,000 pay INCREASE at a time when the lowest paid employees, teacher aides and assistants, agree to a wage freeze. I cannot understand how this can be justified.

I have two additional inquiries regarding the line item budget. First, who is getting the $50,000 increase in the business office salaries? Second, where is the $76,000 increase in Director of Building and Grounds going to?

This community trusts that the Board of Education is making the best decisions they can on behalf of our children and taxpayers. In the spirit of good faith, I am respectfully asking that these issues be answered by the Board and not by the administration.

Answer: You ask a question that is substantially the same as another that the board has received. I’d like to take my answer to that person and repeat it to you.

First I'd like to thank you for writing to the Board to express your concerns. Altogether the process of forming a school budget is a turbulent and frustrating exercise. I'll attempt to answer the specific items you mentioned in your note. Please know that your opinion matters to us and that we desire more input from the residents of this district.

The Board shares your admiration of the members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) - these are our custodians, nurses, teacher assistants, secretaries, and food service workers. The leadership they have shown in their recently ratified contract is commendable and will, we hope, serve as an example to other bargaining units in upcoming negotiations. It is they, as you correctly point out, who have done a great deal to save jobs in the current budget year.

The increase of $76,765 that appears in one budget line-item is an increase in that payment code only, the net payment by the district for the management of the building, grounds, health, and safety functions will actually decrease $20,000 this year (at a minimum). This is because we have chosen to consolidate two management positions into one director of building, grounds, health, and safety. The savings from this consolidation over the next five years should be at least $200,000 in salary, healthcare, and pension costs.

Similarly, the increase in business office expenditure is more than balanced by reduction in the cost for a district treasurer and the abolishment of the Assistant Superintendent position. These roles have been consolidated in an attempt to streamline operations and save money. The net, one-time savings is $81,500.

This year we asked all employees to take a pay freeze (whether or not their contract was up for renegotiation) in order to reduce the effects of our tough financial situation. We were successful in securing a freeze from the CSEA during contract negotiations.

The Broadalbin-Perth Teachers Association (BPTA) will begin negotiating a new contract in the next school year. The administrator's contract will be negotiated the year after that.

The superintendent has taken a pay freeze two of the last three years. This year he offered to do so again if the other bargaining units would do the same. As things turned out he will take his increase and the Board supports this decision. Our superintendent is, by any comparative measure, one of the lowest paid in the state. If you'd like a detailed explanation of this assertion please come to the next Board of Education meeting on April 25th at the high school media center.
-answered by Ed Szumowski, Board of Education Vice President

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