Saturday, July 12, 2008

Please Take the Survey


While I said in the survey that I would keep it open until July 23, there have been few responses over the weekend, and I wanted to get the results out before the community meeting on July 23. Watch for a posting with a link to the report...

If you have a couple of minutes, please complete the online survey I've just posted (you will also receive an email invitation if you subscribe to my e-newsletter).

The hope is to provide meaningful insight to the School Board as they try to figure out what to put on the ballot for the November election, so the more responses the better.

The results of the survey we did last spring ended up matching the outcome of the election pretty closely, although once again I'll caution folks that unless we get hundreds of responses to the survey, it will not be a reliable predictive tool. Nonetheless, we had as many respondants to that survey as I've seen at any events sponsored by the School Board...

When you complete the survey, you'll be brought back here to tell us what you think.



  1. Wow, the question is what will be the response from our district.?

    Great Survey Paul

  2. If 100-200 teachers end up being cut due to a levy failure, my guess is it will be a long time (10 years?), before this district or community will recover. We will go the way of Columbus CSD and South-Western CSD, but with nicer facilities.

    At that point, it seems like you would need to consider other options for education. Among those would be moving (and taking a stiff loss on your resale), private school (expensive), charter school (not so great a track record) and home school (possible, but difficult for many). Yikes. No easy way out of this one.

  3. Good survey, I'm anxious to see the results. Feedback - on the last question, none of the categories applied to me, but I had to answer one or I got an error. It would be good to have a "None of the Above" option.

  4. Paul - You are providing a great service for all of us... and at your own expense. Thank you for that. More parents need to educate themself on issues using sources not controlled by the district. Thank you for all you do.

  5. Anon 9:45pm: Yeah, another friend pointed out the same problem. The system won't allow me to add another choice, but I've fudged and changed the last question: I or a member of my family is an retiree of another school district to None of the Above

    As of the time of the change, only one person had checked this box, so we'll remember to back one tick out of the final results.

    Thanks all for the feedback.


  6. I also had one complaint that the question What size levy would you vote for? doesn't have a "none of your business" choice.

    So I changed I'm going to vote, but not on the levy to I'd rather not say.

    Again, only one person has made this selection so far, and this case the person told me that's what he was trying to convey, so the count remains accurate.


  7. I believe that if we do cut 100 to 200 teachers that the administration, and the board, and the HEA will be the guilty parties.

    We can pass a levy that is reasonable
    The district chose the current path and upcoming issues by making a poor financial decision on the contract.

    The district could have saved a lot of money by short term giving out
    smaller raises and having addressed the medical contribution with the contract 3 years agao.

    The economy is tough right now.
    My company just made reductions in
    gas reimbursement and staff reductions.

    I favor a raise for the school employees but I am curious how much money the district could have saved with a 2% increase across the board
    versus what was settled on.

    It is clear that the tax increases coming at 20% are not sustainable.
    So instead of laying off, why not
    reduce the compensation slightly

    Why is that a problem ?

  8. Paul, the site is great. Over the last few weeks, I've noticed that people (out there, not on the blog) are really more concerned about gas, food, jobs and their home prices. If the school board approves a 9.0+ mill levy, it won't pass. The school board needs to reassess how school's are paid for. We need to increase the business tax base (jobs jobs jobs), stop outrageous tax abatements (look at Dublin!) and start thinking about an alternative to putting the burden of paying for school on the homeowner.

  9. Paul, if the levy passes in November and the assumptions in the forecast are extended, when is the next levy needed and what will the size of that levy be?

  10. This is anon from 9:26 PM...

    I am a 'YES' voter and I agree with those who have indicated that the next levy needs to be less than 9.5 mills in order to pass. While I would vote 'YES' again on a 9.5 mill levy, I believe it MUST be less than that this time in order to pass. From this blog, it sounds like at least one board member (Lisa Whiting) agrees. Suffice it to say, we're probably going to need more cuts and a lower millage to get HCSD voters to pass this thing in November. I'm hoping the BOE has their eyes and ears open.

    I'd encourage everyone to take time out for the Community Conversation to express their opinions and concerns.

  11. Anon 2:01pm:

    I made that estimate last November, along with a personally-delivered request to the Board that their communications to the public include three numbers: the 2008 levy amount, the projected interval until the next levy, and the projected levy millage the next time.

    Nothing has changed materially since then.

    The Board has no wiggle room - they've violated their own policy of keeping 10% of the annual expense budget in the bank as a cushion. Without that cushion, the failure of any levy pretty much means immediate layoffs of teachers, staff and administrators.

    A 9.5 mill levy this time will still require spending reductions on the order of $3.3 million/yr if the desire is to wait 3 years before another levy. A smaller levy means even deeper cuts.

    The size of the cuts can be diminished by scheduling the next levy in 2 years, or even less.

    Or the size of the cuts can be diminished by making the Nov 2008 levy even larger.

    Our Board has been playing brinksmanship with our district for years. My sense is that they're leaning towards something less than 9.5 mills just to get something - anything - passed. It will just set us up for more pain down the road - more cuts, even bigger levies next time.

    There are no comfortable answers. Radical change is necessary, and I fear neither our Board nor our community is prepared.

  12. In the spirit of radical change (and fear thereof), my favorite quote of recent was obtained from an article on Gordon Gee:

    "If you don't like change, you will like irrelevance even less."

  13. Hi Paul - I am a teacher in the District and just received my check today. Before everyone assumes about our new pay package, I'd like you to know that I am getting $4 LESS per pay than I was back in January. Don't get me wrong, I'm OK with it, it just makes me sad when folks in the community are assuming that we have this great raise when in reality it is a pay cut. I'm also paying $125 for a 90-day supply of meds that in December cost me $15. Again - I'm OK with this because it needed to be done. I just want folks to understand this is what the typical teacher got out of our 3-year contract.

  14. Thanks for the info, and thanks for being a teacher in our district.

    This is the kind of info all of in the community need to hear. Still, more detail is needed to fully understand, as there are a number of things in addition to the new healthcare insurance participation which can cause your deductions to increase.

    Would you be willing to share some other details from your paycheck? Specifically:

    Old/New Salary
    Old/New Federal Tax deduction
    Old/New State Tax deduction
    Old/New Local Tax deduction
    Old/New FICA deduction
    Old/New Medicare deduction
    Old/New OEA/HEA deduction
    Old/New STRS deduction
    New Health Ins deduction

    Some of these might have remained at the same percentage of your gross pay as last year (e.g. FICA, Medicare), but it wouldn't surprise me if some of the others are a larger fraction of gross this year.

    Sorry if this seems like prying. While one upsides of being a public employee is access to a pretty fantastic defined benefits retirement system, one of the tradeoffs is that very little personnel information is confidential (including performance assessments) and can be obtained simply by making a request to the central office. It would be much appreciated if you could provide your paycheck info -anonymously of course - and save me the hassle. I promise to post that info promptly so our readers can understand better (I wonder if even the school board members know this kind of info?).


  15. Paul, Rather than check the box that said I have a child attending or who graduated from private/Charter school, I would have preferred to check a box that said that my child attended Hilliard schools, but is now attending private/Charter school. The point being, I was so dissatisified with the education that my child was receiving that it is worth it for me to incur additional the cost of education elsewhere.

  16. Thanks for taking the survey, and for your feedback. I'll be including these comments in the report I'll prepare and deliver to the School Board.


  17. Paul - I would also be interested in finding out if the teacher who posted also is in the year banding to receive step raises. Given that the step raises are over half (4% step vs 3% raise) of the compensation increases, that would shed a lot of light on the salary information they presented.

  18. I don't see how it could be possible to get a 3% raise on an average salary of 57,000+ and then lose net income by paying 6% of health benefits. The math just does not work. They would have to be at the lowest end of the pay scale and then they would also get their 4% step. 7% of 35,000 is $2450. Unless total premiums are somewhere north of $2500 a month, it just doesn't work. I sure hope that person is not one of my kids teachers!

    On another note, I see in todays Dispatch that the BOE will discuss the levy plan at their August 4 meeting. Will you be presenting the survey results to them prior to that, and do you think the meeting will offer enough to the public before going into Executive Session to warrant attending?

  19. I'm hoping the teacher will share the details I asked for so we can work with some facts.

    Yes, I plan to get the results to them by 7/25 so they have some time to digest them prior to their 8/4 meeting.

  20. hillirdite...

    So are you saying that the teacher is either lying or posting an inaccurate statement? Perhaps you should save your sarcasm before you have ALL of the facts.

  21. Anon 5:46 here...
    I meant to say until AFTER you have all of the facts....

    Anyhow... I know that Paul has requested the details of the new contract. I think it is important to compare the old contract vs. the new contract. I've wondered to myself that if the new contract were such a 'windfall' to the teachers, why did it (reportedly) narrowly pass. Also, my understanding is that even some 'yes' voters had reservations.

    In addition, it would be nice to have the additional information (for practical reasons) that Paul has requested of the teacher. I just think it is important not to jump to any hasty conclusions.

  22. Relative to seeing a new copy of the HEA contract:

    - May 12th: Hi Carrie: Could you email to me a copy of the new HEA Agreement, in document format (e.g. Microsoft Word) if you can, otherwise whatever you have available. Thanks very much, Paul Lambert

    - May 21st: Hi Paul, Sorry for the delay in my response. I talked with HR, and they said the contract would be printed and complete in about a week. I will get you a copy as soon as it is ready. Carrie Bartunek

    - June 3: Hi Carrie: How's the new HEA contract coming? Thanks, Paul

    - June 3: Hi Paul, The HEA contract is going to print next week if all goes as expected with proofing. So, I will contact you as soon as it is complete.

    - June 30: Carrie - still have seen nothing. Thanks, Paul

    - July 2: I checked with Human Resources, and they said it is ready for print -- just waiting on one signature from someone who is on vacation. Should have it done in the next week or two. Carrie Bartunek

    July 15: It's been two weeks... Thanks, Paul

    I know it's not Carrie who's stalling. Who is, I wonder?

  23. One reason it's possible that a teacher, even at a somewhat high level on the payscale, can show a net loss (albeit small) in their check today is that only the 3% raise has been applied. The steps don't get applied until the new school year. So, the retroactive increase is only 3%.... at least until the next school year starts.

    One point that is confusing (and I'm not saying it impacts Paul's math at all) is that the step is applied at the beginning of the school year (mid August) and the 3% year bump is applied the following January.

    So, if you are a teacher that gets the step, when the school year starts, you are moved up one year of service (4%) and then in January that teacher receives a 3% raise. If you are a teacher who is moving to a level of service that doesn't increase that year, then no raise is received until January.

    I'm sure that is how one can actually show a loss in pay from pre-contract to post-contract checks. That won't be the case once the school year starts, as teachers will be moved up 1 year on the service chart (assuming that level receives a step increase).

  24. Paul, sounds like it's HR that is slow. Why would they be so slow? Is it because the contract came at the end of the year when everyone was wrapping up for the year? Vacation? or are you suggesting something more calculated?

    I would have to assume the contract wording is 95% the same as previous ones. However, after lawyer reviews, administrative reviews, delays in signatures, clarifications, etc, I'd say that explains the delay.

    I work in the private sector, and just trying to get anything out of a large company that requires any significant number of signatures is a painful experiment. I'm guessing this isn't any different. Although, like you, I wonder how hard is it to review and sign? The BOE makes quick work of it don't they? :-)

  25. Me again.... haven't posted in awhile.

    Thinking of a sensitivity analysis, what would be the required budget cut per millage of levy reduction from 9.5? I ask because, I too, believe only a smaller levy has a chance of passing before March 09. The issue as you pointed out is that any "victory" would just be a delay of more pain if the root problem isn't solved. And I hope we can all agree it's a multi-factor problem, not just "too much spending". However, spending is certainly a considerable component of the issue.

    So if we are looking for a hybrid solution (cuts plus increased taxes) to solve our short-term problems, what is the optimum combination for such a solution? What is the long-term impact of such a "solution"? Does it hurt twice as bad in 3 years? 3 times as bad? We can't reverse spending, but we can control it. And only so much before the "savings" from a reduced levy manifests itself in other ways. Like any risk mitigation process there are only so many options: eliminate risk, minimize risk, transfer risk, ignore risk. If we apply that thinking to financial woes, We've been good at ignoring it, and recently have begun to minimize it. But doesn't that really just translate into transferring it?

  26. KJ:

    Good to hear from you.

    I particularly appreciate your clarification about the timing of teacher raises, ie - that they get their base pay increases on Jan 1 (retroactively in this case), and the step increase (another 4.15%) at the beginning of the school year.

    Also, good reminder about the where the growth in employees has been. While the number of employees has grown at a rate 1.8 times that of student growth over the past 10 years, the regular student-teacher ratio as remained 20:1 the whole time. Numberically, the greatest increases in headcount have been in teaching aids, intervention teachers and intervention tutors.

    Don't know who's the source of the delay on the teacher contract. After all, it was complete enough for the Board to approve it and to start generating payroll on the new salary scale!

    And finally, I think you're right that the solution will be a mixture of cutbacks and a smaller levy. Exactly how much of each is what the Board needs to sort out, and I don't know how they can do that thoughtfully in the amount of time they have left. At the last Board meeting on July 9th, they didn't have a clue what direction they were going to take, and aren't planning to meet again until August 4th (although I suspect that they will engage in a great deal of offline discussion, in direct violation of the Sunshine Laws).

    They must file their resolution with the Board of Elections in only 36 days, and there is only 76 days until early voting can begin. They are putting the campaign committee at a severe handicap.


  27. Also regarding the retroactive pay raise for teachers, just to be clear, remember that the 3% raise was only retroactive to March 15, NOT to Jan. 1. The insurance premium portion payment was also retroactive to March 15. This retroactive date was part of the compromise crafted by the federal mediator.

  28. Paul, there is nothing in the Public Records Law that prohibits a public agency from releasing the contract without a signature. All they have to do is mark it "draft" with the understanding that without the signature it isn't official. If the district were interested in full and timely disclosure, they would have taken this route (and you have every right to ask for it in this format). At this point, it seems the district is stretching the spirit and the letter of the law. My public agency boss would have my neck if I did not bring a delayed request to his attention so that he could make it move asap. No one wants the bad press and publicity (as is the case now).

    Seems to me the administration and board could use some education on the Public Records Law (and Ethics Law for that matter). Many districts and public entities provide an information session during a portion of a public meeting. Representatives from the Ohio Attorney's General office (for public records) and Ethics Commission (for ethics law) will do this free of charge. They are great opportunities to educate the board and the public at the same time and are always well received. While members and staff may get this training elsewhere, a refresher is always useful.

  29. To Anon 5:46 July 15 - I certainly was not accusing anyone of lying. However, under the heading of inaccuracy, I have seen plenty of that regarding teachers pay, mostly in the local news reporting but also from the head of the union. Most of the articles prior to the last levy vote failed to mention the step increases, even direct quotes from the union president. And I will stand by my math - even if the writer is at the bottom of the pay scale, I cannot understand how a 3% raise would get eaten up in the 6% contribution to health care. Of course, since the people paying the piper do not get any clear information regarding pay and benefits, we are only left to suppose. So I suppose I could be wrong. Still waiting for an answer to Paul's response to the original post.
    As far as getting a copy of the contract, I requested, via e-mail, as to how I could see a copy of the previous contract prior to the March levy failure. I was informed that I would have to schedule an appointment to come to the district office in order to see it, and that it was not available at that particular time. Read what you want into that, particularly in light of the responses Paul has been receiving.

  30. Hilliardite,

    Maybe I misunderstood your request. Apologize if I did, but if you want to see a copy of the previous contract it is available at the HEA website and on some other sites that Paul has linked to on several occastions.

    No need to ask the district or schedule an appointment. It's a published document.

  31. Re: Hillerdite asking for contract?
    Making an appt ? yes it is on the site however today is July 18th
    and we still dont have access to the new contract? This becomes very consistent with the asking questions scenario.....

    The bottom line to the entire funding situation that we currently face is to cut expenses.
    This does NOT have to be done by just cutting personnel. NO ONE still has come up with a good answer to the question, why couldnt the compensation increases been less ! It would have SAVED
    jobs, and sent a positive message to the public.

    Everyone can come up with examples of medical contribution to this,
    raises not really as big as they seem, cuts in real income. Guess what many have lived that for the past few years. To bite the bullet for a few years is not going to send any school employee to the poor house. If we do not have the funds, how can we spend it. ?

    What people are waking up to given the economy is that they have allready cut back, major increases in medical, every year, minimal increases in wages, IF ANY , and we keep handing out the same increases year after year.

    This is not about the kids,that was shown during the contract negotiations. It is simply time to hold the fort until we get away from this economic challenge. It is not the taxpayers fault the admin negotiated with money that they did not have.

  32. ... In the continued quest to get a copy of the new HEA contract, I contacted Dale McVey's office. He's on vacation, but I was answered by Vickie Thurmond of his office. The dialog went like this:

    - July 15: Dale, can you help clear the logjam?

    - July 16: Dale McVey is out of the office this week, so I'm checking his email messages for him. I hope you don't mind that I'm responding to your inquiry on his behalf. I have placed a call to our Human Resources Department to determine where we are with copying the current HEA contract. I'll let you know what I learn as soon as I have an answer from them. - Vickie Thurmund

    - July 16: Thanks for your prompt response, Vickie. My preference is to get a Word document rather than a paper copy. It can be emailed to this address. Paul Lambert

    - July 18: Hi, Mr. Lambert. Human Resources has provided me with a copy of the HEA Master Agreement and I've left one at the front desk for you to pick up at your convenience. The cost of this document is $2.12. Thanks. vst

    - July 18: Vickie: Thank you, but I requested a copy of the document in its electronic form (e.g. Microsoft Word doc file). I'm happy to pay the $2 or whatever. It can be emailed to this address, or I can come to the central office and let you copy it to my jump drive. I'm available any time today. Thanks, Paul Lambert

    So, I'll pick up the paper copy and begin the laborious task of comparing old vs new, but will continue to press for the electronic version so you folks can see it too (a scanned image file would be just too huge).


  33. Wow.

    3% raise and 4% step, and Paul is getting charged $2 for a copy of the contract.

    Just another indication to me that this district has completely lost touch with reality. I hope they understand how petty this makes the whole district look.

    Shame on Hilliard schools - what an embarrassment.

    Penny wise - pound foolish.

    Another example of why I think this levy will crash and burn.

  34. I've requested a number of documents over the years (e.g. the questionable Homewood Easement Agreement), and it's customary to be charged for such copies, per the Sunshine Laws. The thing is, I'm pretty sure it costs them more to create the invoice, make the accounting entries and cash the check for $2.12 than it does to create the copies. More than that, the electronic version would have had no cost whatsoever.

    Some districts just post their teacher contracts on their websites. The State Dept of Labor Relations will post it as well, as they do every public employees' union contract.


  35. PL, even the tentative agreement is a public record - no signatures required. You could even get a copy before the board vote if you like.

  36. Thanks for the advice. Our school leaders have a fortress mentality, where they think they have to (and have the right to) control information to achieve their goals, laudable as they may be.

    I fear this frame of mind spells doom for the levy.