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Monday, May 2, 2011

Question regarding the CSEA salary freeze and the 2011-12 budget

Question: What kind of administator and teachers do we have here at BP, that they would ask the lowest paid employee to take a pay freeze and then take increases for themself, I have had jobs in nursing where you are responsible for peoples lives had position cut had to do more work and the pay remained the same, we get the feeling as tax payers that teachers and administator are better then the rest of us, why are we not cutting more teacher positions like the school district around us? why are there not more cut in sport program that only benefit a certain small % of our students , while K -5 students are being ask to send in more money to help pay for gas for a class trip? I watch my kids buying school supplies for their kids including coping paper, construction paper, red pens for the teachers, kleenex, lysol wipes etc... why is this when more cuts could be made also? retiree have not had they social security increase over the last 2 years but yet we have to cut medication, food budget to pay our taxes. Why?? As you can tell my husband and I will be voting no this budget.

Answer: Mrs. Funk, I'm sorry to read that you hold these opinions. I will attempt to provide answers to all of your questions, in the order they were asked. If they don't change your opinion, I hope that these answers at least explain where the board is coming from.

First, all of the employees of the B-P district are contract employees. The district enters into a lawful agreement to pay the employees a certain wage, provide specific benefits, etc for the length of that contract. It's not optional - we must have these contracts under NY law. Typically, each of the bargaining units negotiates in a different year. This year the CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association) contract had to be renegotiated. Next year it will be the BPTA (Broadalbin-Perth Teachers Association) and the year following that it will be our administrators.

All employees were asked to take a pay freeze this year in the hopes that we could avoid cutting programs and increasing taxes. To do so we would have to open their contracts and come to a new agreement. We were unable to achieve this.

Because the CSEA contract was up for negotiation we had to come to an agreement. The agreement reached was, in our opinions, wonderful - the net increase in cost to the district's taxpayers for the next three years is essentially flat. This is because of the great amount of savings in health care costs and the modest wage increases provided in the contract. There is no doubt that the CSEA came through for the community when it was their time to negotiate.

About the administration and teachers: We have an award winning administration which costs less per student than 90% of all districts in NY (according to a watch-dog site provided by the Empire Center for New York State Policy). Similarly, the instructional cost per student at B-P is less than 97% of all districts in NY; instructional costs include teacher salaries. Our students perform above average on almost all state tests and we have the highest graduation rate in the area. The district is continuing to search for ways to improve the quality of education provided. This combination of comparatively low cost and high performance is something to be proud of. Whatever else one may say, B-P is more efficient with your dollars than almost any school in NY.

About cutting positions: Broadalbin-Perth has laid off employees or not filled the positions of retirees 22 times in the last five years. These were cuts to all business units of the district but teachers made up the largest number of cuts (10). Each school district in the area arrives at a moment of decision on their own timeline. B-P has been scaling down in size for several years and made cuts again this year.

About sports: Sports and extracurricular activities are among the most important things offered by the school if feedback received from the community is an indicator. When it was proposed to cut sports and other extra-curricular activities we received an unusually large number of communications that they should be kept. There were approximately 1200 participants in various extra-curricular activities offered by the district - among these were roughly 700 distinct students.

About students bringing in supplies and paying for trips: A large number of the cuts to the budget and savings to the taxpayers have come from supplies. We have been told by some taxpayers that it is preferable to have those who use the facility pay for such things as supplies and gasoline for trips. More importantly, the mission of the school is to educate students to the highest possible standard. In order to accomplish this mission we need teachers who will educate them and an environment that is conducive to learning. So we sacrifice supplies in order to keep teachers to educate and employees who can maintain the school. It's clearly not an ideal situation but we have certain things we can control and others we cannot.

Why does education cost so much in NY: The short answer to this question is that we need reform of the laws governing schools. The various mandates handed down from the state increase costs unnecessarily and the laws governing collective bargaining leave most boards of education with little power at the negotiating table. There are more details in answers to other questions on Patriot Plain Talk. Please also review this document prepared by NYSSBA (New York State School Boards Association) It provides details about cost drivers in education.

If you would like to support the kinds of changes required in order to make education more affordable please contact your representatives in the assembly and senate. They have the power to change the laws, we on the board can only tell you about what needs changing and advocate on your behalf. I've been told that legislators regard a single communication from a constituent as representing 30 people, so please write them!

Here are our representatives:
Assemblyman Marc Butler
District Office: 33-41 E. Main Street, Johnstown, NY 12095
Phone: 518-762-6486

Senator Hugh T. Farley
District Office: 2430 Riverfront Center, Amsterdam, NY 12010
Phone: (518) 843-2188
-answered by Ed Szumowski, Board of Education Vice President

1 comment:

  1. A couple comments to Mr. T's response. If the school can't afford the gasoline for a field trip mostly likely the taxpayers/parents can't either. Don't have "off-site" field trips. Have a class picnic on grounds followed by a brown bag lunch. Have a movie day in class (children vote on the movie). Have a kick ball game. Have some "free fun". In regard to school supplies, every year I have spent well over $300 - 2" binders, 3" binders this and that. Get down to basics - paper and pen. Re-evaluate what these teachers are putting on their "mandated" supply lists. Don't expect the taxpayers to do more after being hit with a double digit increase 2 years in a row and another increase today - most going on the 3rd year in a row without a raise themselves. The district's well is running dry and so are ours - we can't give anymore!