Monday, August 11, 2008

Proposal to Board: Salary Rollbacks

The following is the text of comments I will be making during the Public Participation time of tonight's School Board meeting:

I have asked you before and now ask you again that when you decide to put a levy on the ballot, you communicate three numbers to the voters:

1. The size of the levy proposed
2. How long do you project it will be until another levy is needed
3. How large that next levy might need to be.

Using the revenue and expense numbers in Brian’s 5 Year Forecast, and presuming that you will strive to restore the 10% operating reserve which is your official policy, I calculate that a levy in two years will need to be 11 mills. As one commenter on my blog noted, you are just kicking the can down the road, and not dealing with the root issues – with the major one being our compensation and benefits philosophy.

If it is true that a 9.5 mill levy would have necessitated no additional cuts, and that with no new levy, $11 million/yr in cuts would be needed, then the math suggests that if a 6.9 mill levy is successful, there will still need to be $3 million/yr cut from the budget.

I have an idea for how to do that.

Without question, some or all of the $3 million in cuts will have to taken from the compensation and benefits categories, which make up 90% of our operating budget. Since that budget is about $100 million/yr, $3 million/yr is about 3%.

The usual way of cutting money from compensation and benefits is through layoffs. The HEA and OAPSE contracts specify that it will be the members with the least time on the job who will be laid off first. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a young teacher who gets laid off after the first two or three years on the job.

My suggestion is to instead ask all employees – HEA, OAPSE and Administrators – to give back 3% from their last contracts. This 3% giveback could be accomplished by using the 2007 pay schedule for 2008, the 2008 pay schedule for 2009, and the 2009 pay schedule for 2010. I am not calling for any changes to the step schedule in this adjustment.

Administrators would need to make a 3% giveback as well.

The point of such a giveback by the employees would be to demonstrate to the public that we’re all willing to make sacrifices – to meet somewhere in the middle. I think that this gesture by the employees would greatly improve the probability of passage of the 6.9 mill levy.

And this giveback would demonstrate to the most junior members of the HEA and OAPSE that their elder members are willing to sacrifice a little to preserve the jobs of the younger ones.

Doing your job well – and our district team certainly does – isn’t enough. The many employees of Skybus did their jobs well, and they all got laid off anyway. The 10,000 people employed by DHL in Wilmington do their job well, but they’re going to lose them regardless (can you imagine the stress in Wilmington City Schools right now?).

I wish our current economic conditions were better. I have confidence that better days are ahead, but right now the amount of money spent on the compensation of our district team needs to be recalibrated to match up with general economic conditions.

This giveback program I am suggesting will accomplish that with no layoffs. It seems like the most reasonable solution to our immediate situation, and would give us all time to design a new system with a sustainable balance of funding and compensation.


  1. Dear Paul,

    I like the idea of having the current salary increases rolled back. However, shouldn't the administrators' free retirement and undisclosed annuities also be addressed? Classified and certified employees have 10% of their salaries taken right off the top, to help fund their retirement. Our administrators pay 0% toward their retirement; they are 100% subsidized by HCSD. And how can anyone who is being paid by taxpayers' money, be legally entitled to any income that is "undisclosed"? Some daylight needs to be shed on these inequities.

  2. Thanks for the feedback.

    I think the entire compensation & benefits philosophy of our school district needs an overhaul, and contributions made by administrators toward their retirement has to be on the table just like everything else.

    But we're not going to get that done in the 85 days remaining until the general election (and early/absentee voting begins in just 50 days).

    This is a simple step which I think can help get this next levy passed and buy us time (about a year) to develop a sustainable approach.

    Otherwise this levy, even at 6.9 mills, is likely to go down in defeat, and cause damage from which our district may never recover.

  3. Since Rick Slater was quoted lamenting the cutbacks (This Week Hilliard), I hope he is at tonights meeting so I can see the look on his face. To say nothing of the look on Mr. McVeys face. Could easily be "priceless".

  4. Great turnout for the meeting tonight. I counted about 60 people from the public. There were 14 speakers - the most I remember seeing since the meeting when the selection of the Emmelhainz farm for the Bradley High School site was announced.

    I saw neither Rick Strater nor Mary Kennedy from the OEA, but two of the OAPSE leaders were there. One spoke and asked pretty much the same question I and others have asked - what's going to be cut if the 6.9 mill levy PASSES? No response from the Board to his question.

    The speakers generally spoke in favor of the levy, citing the importance to our kids and our community. A few said we should pass the levy 'whatever millage the Board decides.'

    Others said a levy needs to be passed, but some changes are in order as well.

    In all, about 45 minutes were devoted to speakers. While the Board is not required to respond, President Denise Bobbitt gave each Board member (Andy Teater was absent) a chance to speak. All spoke in generalities - importance of education, frustration with being where we are, etc.

    The resolution authorizing the 6.9 mill levy passed unanimously and anticlimactically.

    Two other interesting items were on the agenda. One was to solicit bids for eight school buses to keep the fleet relatively up to date (i.e. the oldest buses would be retired). Presumably the buses won't actually be purchased if the levy is voted down and high school busing is eliminated. I know the buses would be paid for out of a different bucket of money, but still one would think it's money that doesn't have to spent if our transportations needs are cut that dramatically.

    The other was to decide whether to rehire John Bandow as principal of Davidson HS, even though John is going to retire the end of this month. In other words, John will collect both his pension and be paid his full salary as a working principal. One of the more interest aspects of this agenda item - I thought - was that the Board invited public comment while the motion was on the table.

    Lots of folks react pretty negatively to this double-dipping. I agree that there's something about it that seems a little off. But from a purely financial standpoint, when you rehire a retiree, the district doesn't have to pay for health benefits, as these are covered by the STRS, and so it is usually cheaper to rehire a retiree than it is to hire a new principal and pay full benefits.

    Treasurer Brian Wilson used the opportunity to defend the credit card usage, which I'll write of in that story.

    Anyway, there was a little applause when I delivered my piece above. Some of the other speakers received applause as well.

    It was a good meeting.

    And no Executive Session!

    The meeting was covered by Charlie Boss of the Columbus Dispatch, Rosemary Kubera of Hilliard Northwest News, and TV reporters from WBNS-10TV and WSYX. It will be interesting to see what they have to say.

  5. As a current teacher in the district, I believe a salary rollback is a great idea. I must admit that I'm probably one of the few teachers that thinks we (Hilliard teachers) are paid extremely well. I would gladly accept a rollback especially if it means saving fellow teachers' jobs and lower teacher-to-student ratios (win-win). However, it may not be Rick Strater's favorite idea... just a hunch! A 3% salary rollback, if agreed upon, would certainly rally a significant number of taxpayers who are on the fence to vote for the levy. It would restore the taxpayers' confidence in their teachers, many of whom caused a bit of embarrassment during salary negotiations last year while "working to the rule" and demanding 100% of their medical premiums. Again, this is an extremely good idea and should be introduced to the public on a larger scale. I would certainly encourage teachers to suppport it.

  6. Great to hear your thoughts on this as a teacher.

    Now, let's hope the Board and union leaders will put this idea on the table for serious discussion. Meanwhile, it would be great if you could plant the seed among your colleagues.


  7. Paul, I'm a pro-levy person who also thinks your idea of the one-time salary rollback is a a good one. I hope this is given serious consideration.

  8. Thanks for the support SJ. Now we have to convince the School Board and the unions to actually talk about it.


  9. Needless to say Paul any type of
    adjustment would come across favorably with the electorate.

    As I said last night at the meeting we do need to pass a levy but the current contract history is not sustainable. This is not to say raises should not take place.

    It is great to hear from an educator that the job actions
    are an issue and that is why I also brought that up last night.
    I also believe that most people value what our teachers do, but some adjustments would be necessary

    I tried to be positive last evening but also come with the message that people are tired of hearing they "dont get it"
    Change has to happen, and if not we are going to cross at the wrong side of the road and a major collision is going to happen with the outcome not too pretty.

    It was great to see people actually speak what was on their mind.

    Also interesting that the two union leaders were not there.
    Are they hiding from something

    I am amazed that more thought did not go into the cut portion of
    6.9 mills, is this just a scramble drill.

  10. Rick: Although I don't recall his name, I believe the President of our OAPSE local was present, and one of the OAPSE leaders was a speaker. I liked what he had to say.


  11. Paul, Have you followed up with e-mails to the BOE and Rick Strater?

  12. Thanks for the support Paul. OAPSE has always been there, but much like the efforts that are given, They are rarely seen. Although things are slowly improving, my personal angle is that we don't seem to be included until it is time to get out of the hole. The concept of "Because I am the Boss" is getting old. We can help, we are professionals, we have ideas. But it doesn't seem to matter.

    But for this blog many members have spoken up, There are a few that would support the the roll back if it meant keeping their job. The support staff is an experienced dedicated group. I say this for the worry that they have in seeking new employment at the current cycle of their profession.

    Then the others need every dime they can get, so they have the means to help pay these levies. Many of us Vote to support so we have a job to then find a way to pay our tax increase. Sadly I would even admit it is an endless cycle or even a trap.

    Many other options have been submitted, I know the plan needs reworked, But how do we get the Board to support some of those? If you'd believe in trickle down, or lead by example, then maybe the staff will follow. But when the top enjoys the benefit, the rest are going to want it too. That is a hard act to follow.

    I don't know if you have researched this point, but nearly half of the OAPSE membership has reached the max of the step raise chart. Which is now not as much money going out to raises for OASPE as a whole. As any increase is left to the negotiation of the contract for these members. Saving the 1.25% - 2% that some could be getting. This should also show long term dedication from OAPSE.

    Lastly I'll leave this thought with you. I know I have come to a spot in my career, that I am doing a good job, it is a good job to have, I am grateful for my job, and I don't even mind making others look good. But the the Admin is sure making it hard to continue to do so.

    Thank You.

  13. Thanks for your comment OAPSE Member.

    I'm the business equivalent of what the military folks call a 'mustang' in that I started my career (with CompuServe) at pretty much the lowest level entry job in an Operations group, and had the good forture to be able to retire as a Vice President. It certainly was frustrating to see some folks who didn't seem to care nearly as much or work nearly as hard get paid more and receive much more recognition. And it really angered me when someone would say, "if you want that kind of pay, apply for one of those jobs." I felt that answer demeaned my role even more.

    As I progressed in my career, I came to understand that a team has a variety of roles, and you need to find folks who will fill all of those roles if you want the team to survive.

    If you're an offensive tackle, you can't gripe that the starting quarterback gets all the money and the attention. Your team can't win without a good quarterback, and you probably don't have the skills (or maybe even the interest) to be a good quarterback. So in order for you to have a great career as a tackle, you need to play on a team with a great quarterback.

    The reverse is true of course, the quarterback would be a grease spot without you in there to protect him. The really great quarterbacks understand that, and spread the love. But even if your quarterback is a jerk, you still need one to play the game. We have to come to peace with that, or it will eat you up.

    That's a very interesting statistic - that half the OAPSE members have reached the max step. Only 30% of the HEA aren't on step years. so for 50% of the OAPSE members and 30% of the HEA members, to just roll back a year on the pay grids would mean no increase at all next year.

    That could be one reason to implement the rollback by cutting both the step and the base increase in half, for example.

    The goal is to back $3 million out of the budget, and there's a lot of ways to get there. My idea is just probably the easiest to implement.

    Hope to keep hearing from you!


  14. As usual the Hilliard Northwest News has taken their own context and
    have errors in their story yesterday

    In my comments I specifically stated that current contracts cannot be
    adjusted, but that if the funding from the state did not increase the contracts that have been in place
    could not be sustained with the type of increases that currently exist

    The article made it sound like I was calling for immediate cuts which was not the case, only that future contracts be adjusted.
    In trying to straighen it out
    the reporter "paraphrased my comments" and that my assumptions were wrong.

    So to be clear, unless their were voluntary give backs, which I do not think will happen, future
    adjustments will be needed if we dont get increased funding from the state. That does not mean increases dont happen, they are just not as much. The article
    made it sound that reductions should happen now, versus what I specifically said were things that had to be looked at in the future

    This is the same person who said
    Ted Strickland was in the audience
    a few weeks ago. ?

  15. I believe it was another reporter, from This Week newspapers who said Ted Strickland was in the audience when it was actually Ted Celeste. You do reinforce the point, however, that our local weekly papers are often inaccurate.
    But then,the Dispatch runs corrections an an almost daily basis, although on this story, I think they got it right.

  16. Paul:

    My name is Marc Schare and I'm a board member in Worthington. I want to commend you on providing this forum to help people understand the realities of school finance in Ohio, both the funding and the expense components. I've long believed that over time, district after district will hit a wall with regard to funding. Simply put, district expenses across the state are rising at a rate that exceeds income across the state, so it doesn't matter how that income manifests itself in taxes, there simply will not be enough to sustain the current paradigm. Hilliard may be approaching the wall (I don't know, I'm guessing from this blog). Worthington is, debateably, at the wall because we have nowhere to grow and the incomes across our district are declining. You hit the wall when your district's supporters start voting against the levys because they are simply no longer affordable.

    I did want to weigh in on this current discussion. Worthington miscalculated badly in 2001 when they signed a three year contract and found out in 2003 that massive cuts would be required. At that time, our administrators volunteered to donate their pay increases back to the district. Our board passed a resolution asking the same of our teachers and classified workers. They said no and we wound up cutting jobs before passing a levy in March of 2004. Here are some newspaper articles from the time:

    I don't blame our teacher's union for saying no. I do blame our treasurer (long since gone) for the miscalculations. As Worthington approaches a new levy cycle, the chatter in parts of our community is that the levy cycle (not just the current request) must be sustainable and affordable over time. We are thinking at least 2 levy cycles out and we are thoroughly documenting assumptions such as state funding as we do so.

    I send this to let you and your readers know that asking the unions for concessions has been tried in Central Ohio, all be it under a very different set of circumstances.

    Best wishes.
    Marc Schare

  17. What about a deal. We'll pass the 6.9% levy AND they agree to the 3% roll back in their saleries. Welcome to the real world; I took a 8% paycut last year to keep my job.

    Btw, Haven't seen it listed anywhere on here, but the school website has the list of proposed cuts AND there is a special meeting of the HCSB on Monday, August 18th at 11:30am in the Admin building to pass the necessary resolution to put the levy on the ballot.

  18. Marc:

    Thanks very much for giving us the perspective from another district. I think Hilliard and Worthington have much in common as far as our current economic situation, but we have the added risk of tens of thousands of acres of developable land left in our district. The Big Darby Accord plays a large role in our future, as well as South Western's, but neither school district has any respresentation on the policy-making boards.

    The thing that's changed is this realization that: a) 90% of school costs are labor; and, b) our employees are getting compensation increases well above all those of us who work in the private sector.

    Neither of these are new, it's just that few folks - including me - paid enough attention before now. That surprise is causing an equal and opposite reaction.

    It could have been avoided had the school leadership believed it was their responsibility to educate the community. I'm trying to fill the gap as best I can, but it would be so much more effective if the school leaders would do it.

    Hope you stop by and comment often.


  19. Ben:

    One correction to your statement. It's 6.9 mills, not 6.9%. The actual percentage increase to the school component of your property taxes will be 16.4%, and that's true for all homeowners in the school district, regardless of the municipality in which you live, because ALL residents of the district pay exactly the same millage of property taxes.

    However your overall property taxes will increase something more like 10% - and this amount will vary depending on your municipality.

    Thanks for the reminder about the 8/18 meeting. It is really just a formality, and will probably last only a few minutes.

  20. Many people do not realize that everyone who owns a house in the district pays the same school tax. I have friends who live in Columbus, but in the district, who insist they do not pay the same school taxes as we who live in City of Hilliard, and that a levy increase does not affect them as Columbus residents. I get a little miffed when I see the realty signs that say "Hilliard Schools, Columbus Taxes". Maybe these people pay their property tax into escrow accounts and never see the actual tax bill. Do Columbus residents vote "for" levies because they think they are not paying? Do they believe they get to vote to tax someone else? I wonder how this myth continues, and I think it is partly the realtors who imply it in the ads, and may perhaps not understand it themselves and pass on false information. Everyone can now see the breakdown of their property tax on the Franklin County Auditor website.

  21. GS:

    Thanks for making two points:

    1. Indeed, everyone who lives within the school district pays exactly the same school tax millage. See this earlier post

    2. A community education program can't just send out information in a newsletter every once in a while. Even though I've been writing about these basic facts for two years now, there is a constant flow of new folks growing interested in school funding, and who show up needing to know the basics. That's the reason I've added a category called Basics for New Readers - to help folks find those essential, basic facts (should have called it "FAQs" huh?)

    Just as a product company can't run a TV commercial once and hope everyone sees it, this kind of communications has to be done over and over and over to penetrate to an effective level in the community.

    And it's why - unlike some blog writers - I don't mind it when a new reader brings up a question we've already discussed. That means we're making progress (but I am thankful for hyperlinks!).


  22. This is a response I sent to an email string some co-workers and I had going re: the upcoming levy (we're all state workers that live in Hilliard):

    I disagree that they should voluntarily take a pay cut. I don't think it's fair to ask a group of teachers to do something we ourselves would probably would never do--as government employees we know what it's like when the public holds us to standards they personally would never tolerate. I do, however, think they should forego any raises this year and agree to smaller increases the next few years. This is reasonable and more in line with what government has done (state employees were frozen in their wages for two straight years and probably will be again) and what some in the private sector are doing (no raises at all to avert layoffs or stay afloat). Just because they are teachers doesn't mean it's any easier for them in this economy to drive to work and feed their kids. This, coupled with a comprehensive review by the district of where they can divert funds (athletic event receipts is the first that comes to mind) from other places to the operating expense fund, AND a new-and-improved fiscally transparent policy, would get a yes vote from me, and I will send this to Mr. Lambert and the district leadership as he suggests. Kelly M

  23. Kelly:

    Thanks for your comment.

    Just to be sure my proposal is clear: I'm suggesting that the all school employees, union and management alike, just put a one-year hold on base pay increases, which were 3% for the HEA and OAPSE members in their most recent contracts.

    70% of the HEA members and some percentage of the OAPSE members would still get their 4% step increases. It is only the most senior and highest paid members who do not get step increases.

    You also said: as government employees we know what it's like when the public holds us to standards they personally would never tolerate.

    I don't know what this means. Can you elaborate?


  24. Hi Paul. I'm clarifying my "as government employees we know what it's like when the public holds us to standards they personally would never tolerate" comment:

    Over my 15 year state government career, I've read plenty of comments in surveys and blogs about how the public generalizes us as if we never work hard and have it so easy because of our benefits, or whatever. I am also aware that the public gets this perception from having to deal with lazy customer service types who makes those of us who work our tails off look bad. That said, I think it's hard for those that work in the private sector (I myself did for a while) to understand what it's like to have to do the same job with the same expected outcome with less and less resources. I just don't know if the same expectation applies to the private sector: would you ask an elevator installer to install an elevator with 2 less people in half the time at half the cost and then jump right on it to the 34th floor?

    There is a double standard at issue--most people would feel completely OK with never giving state employees raises ever again, but how many would tolerate that themselves?

    Anyway, I digress from the important topic here, and I appreciate your time in letting me make my point. I, and most of the people I work with, are well of the public expectation and work hard to meet it. And I'm not whining mind you (nobody held a gun to my head and forced me to be a civil servant). I feel privileged to serve the public. I just wish we would stop and be more realistic at times--we are all victim to a school funding system that is unfair, but it's the only system we have and until we get a better one we have to figure out how to make it work.

    Like I said, a yes or no vote from me will depend on how hard the distict works to utilize their current funding sources (one finance committee member told me that the athletic departments at the high schools get to keep all the money generated from sporting our football teams will look really great in their new uniforms, but none of them will know how to spell football), and how far they go in realizing that they are accountable to us whether they like it or not.

    Thanks Paul, for your clarification also. I agree with your salary proposal.

  25. Kelly:

    You said: would you ask an elevator installer to install an elevator with 2 less people in half the time at half the cost and then jump right on it to the 34th floor?

    I think most of us in the private sector would respond by saying absolutely, this is what has been happening in private industry for years.

    I grew up in an heavily industrialized and heavily unionized region. In the 1960s and 1970s, strikes by workers demanding better wages and better benefits were fairly common. It's not that they struggling to survive on puny wages - they were making good money, but wanted more.

    In one case, the strike lasted many months. Finally, the union capitulated and said they would be willing to come back to work for a token pay raise.

    Except that the company had had enough of these strikes, and during the time the union thought they were deeply wounding the company by keeping them shutdown, the company built a new production facility in a non-union region, and shut down the union operation permanently.

    Was the company just being dastardly and cheap? The fact of the matter was that this company competed on a global basis, and its competitors were able to charge lower prices because of lower labor rates. The company could either get concessions from its workers, move the operation, or go out of business. They chose to move.

    Many people on this blog have written that they've gone some time without raises. And they're asked to do more with less. Sure, they could leave and find another job. That's not so easy right now, otherwise many would have already done so.

    Government workers are generally insulated from all this. The tax money keeps flowing in, raises are granted (although I love the "that wasn't a raise, it was a cost-of-living adjustment" argument).

    Of course, that is more true for the Federal government than state and local government. When is the last time you heard of Federal workers being laid off? But there have certainly been layoffs at the city lrvel (e.g. Columbus), and there are about to be some layoffs in state government I suspect, as the next budget being proposed by the Governor is 95% of the current budget (including school funding, which also plays into this story).

    All I'm suggesting here is that our school employees recognize what's going on in the country around them, and take this step to recalibrate their salary increases to the private sector.

    The rate of growth of school funding is going to slow, and our Board is going to be forced to cut back on spending growth, whether or not this levy passes. Notice that I said cut back on the rate of spending growth, not spending cutbacks.

    So I'm putting the choice on the unions: decrease the rate our personnel costs will increase by having each member get a little less, or by standing by and allowing your most junior (and most vulnerable) members to get laid off.

    I hope they make the right choice.


  26. Paul, I think it is important to reinforce what you said in your last statement. It is really not about cuts but slowing that rate ofspending growth and how much could have been saved.

    I really dont expect to get a "windfall" from the state in the next 3 years for funding our schools locally. So the electorate will have to increase its investment locally to keep pace. The question is will everything be put on the table ?

    Little has been mentioned aboutcontract
    spending adjustments other than cutting out programs and then related personnel. I am still hoping over the next few weeks that
    the contract compensation increases
    that have happenend over the last 3 contracts will be seriously looked at and adjusted for the next negotiation. As a number of people have said, it can be a combination of less of a step raise and regular increase. Instead of 3% + 4.15% step is there a reason we cannot go lower.
    The medical plan also needs an additional adjustment.

    I believe the levy will pass by a very close margin, as the elimination of the programs noted
    will get the attention of the
    parents and they will feel they absolutely have to vote yes.

    I also believe that in the next contract negotiation you will see
    the same raise compensation
    3% or higher, and 4.15 step with a very minimal increase in medical

    The district needs to tell us now how they are going to pay for that.
    Otherwise the levy we will see in November will be miniscule compared to what we are going to be asked to pay over the next
    5 to 7 years. With additional increases in compensation compounded on the next contract it is not out of the realm that we could be asked for at least 20 mills in the next 4 to 5 years over and above a successful levy
    in November. That is very scary!

    Why has the contract become more important than the economic well being of the district ?

  27. Paul,

    Not sure if you're familiar with the term BRAC "Base Realignment and Closure", but RIFs (Reductions in Force) and job-related relocations happen in the Federal Government, too.

    My local organization actually has just come out of a period where our numbers were reduced and our workload changed and increased. Believe me, I'm very thankful to have a job. Many people were fortunate enough to find jobs in the private sector, or in other parts of the country or be offered early retirement. I'm not saying that it begins to compare with what happens in the private sector, but realize that it does happen.

  28. Paul,

    I should add that I'm pretty certain that no one in our organization ended up being involuntarily unemployed. Our director worked tirelessly (and often looked exhausted) to save as many jobs in the organization as possible and bring in new workload. His goal was get the RIF number to 0. Had he not been so diligent, I think the situation could have been much different.

    Even so, there were those that retired early and many people ended up in other jobs (inside and outside the Federal Government -- inside and outside Central Ohio). Our organization's number were still impacted.

  29. SJ:

    Thanks for reminding me about BRACs, which are often devestating to their local communities. The closure of even a small installation like Rickenbacker can be felt deeply - especially by the local school districts. Think about the hit someplace like San Francisco took when the Navy's installations at Treasure Island, Mare Island and Alameda were all closed.

    I've been thinking about a piece discussing how community-based funding makes for a more responsive government, and a closer relationship with the taxpayers. Those who advocate turning primary funding of our school districts over to the State of Ohio - notably the teachers' unions - believe that it would get us out of the 2-3 year local levy cycles, and therefore stabilize the funding (and therefore the source of salaries and benefits).

    I think the evidence says the opposite. Our district has been flat funded for a number of years. The Governor's next budget will likely cut school funding 5% statewide, and I think the so-called wealthy districts like Hilliard may get cut even more so as to cut other districts less.

    Anyway, my base proposal is to take a timeout in the rate of salary increases for a year, and pass the 6.9 mill levy in order to buy us some breathing room while we figure out something more sustainable for our community.


  30. In todays NW News, there is a letter from a teacher in the district who says "teachers are not overpaid - that is not the problem". I will be the last one to say teachers are overpaid, but as 90% of the operating budget goes towards salaries and benefits, the increases must be reined in. Ms. Culp also writes that her family will sacrifice in other ways than voting no on the levy. Mighty big of her if she is one of the 70% of teachers getting 7% annual raises. Her family will be able to easily absorb the $600 hit on taxes with a
    $4200 raise this year, to say nothing of the $4200+ next year (based on average salaries, I have no idea her tenure in teaching. Most of us have no expectation of 7% raises, either this year or next

  31. I also saw that article from the teacher and thought it made her come across as somewhat pompous.

    I saw the typical HEA rhetoric in her comments; state funding, blame the governer, blah, blah, blah. Not sure why so many teachers seem to be so off the mark when it comes to these discussions. It's always everyone elses fault, and the salaries (and more specifically, raises) are always somehow "off-limits".

    I am half-tempted to write back to the paper and comment on her article.

    I hope that the HEA contacts her and lets her know that her comments only make her and the district teachers come across as self-focused, self-righteous hypocrites.

  32. I also read the letters today
    and was interested in all of the comments.

    I dont think the prevalent attitude is anti raise, but more and more voters seem to be tuned in to the contract and its contents. I also dont want to paint all the teachers with a wide brush as not caring, that is not the case.

    I still am of the belief that
    down deep the whole contract negotiation situation left a bad taste and no one has stepped up to the plate to diffuse this important issue. And now people are looking at what took place, the final outcome and many are saying, "we had this disruption over this ?"

    Add to that the communication on
    the raises and the whole 7% just kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. Over 70% will benefit.
    Plus the minimal medical contribution compared to the private sector has also alarmed
    a good amount of the voters.

    I believe that the levy needs to pass, but upfront communication that calls it like it is is necessary.

    I am hopeful the levy campaign and the district addresses the contract negotiations, the adjustments needed in future contracts, and
    recognition of what is going on in the private sector and compensation
    comparisons all come out in the open

  33. Good comments by last two posters on the letters.

    Dont expect the HEA to say anything
    They got away with a great contract
    a anti parent, anti student contract negotiation.

    What they wont tell you is they supported with huge contributions the election of members to the board, city council, state rep, senator etc

  34. Unfortunately, when it comes to contract negotiations, the teachers stop being dedicated professionals and become like every other union trying to get as much as possible out of management and the financial health of the business ( in this case the district)be hanged. I am glad more and more people are seeing this for what it is: levies are mostly about labor costs. No wonder the teachers support them. It's not about the kids, it's about 90% of the levy going into their pockets.

    I was really annoyed by the teacher's letter. Sacrifice? Don't scold me about sacrifice when your raise will more than cover the additional tax cost. She didn't help the levy cause or the union with that letter. We'll see a number of responses to her in the next issue.

    How close to election will they tell us what they plan to cut if 6.9 passes instead of 9.5? My guess is they will continue to focus on the petty stuff to scare parents.

  35. gs- That is because they do what every union does - let the leaders tell them "WE know what is best for you, so stay out of it. And when we bring you the contract offer, let US tell you whether it is good and how you should vote." Trouble is, these are college educated professionals the union is dealing with. They should have the foresight to realize there is no golden goose,that they must rely on the goodwill of the taxpayers. But they don't seem to care about job security in their ranks; it is not like the "factory" is going to shut down and move to Mexico. I just don't understand how they can make demands that they know are going to bankrupt the system, and then have the nerve to say it is all about the kids, while they leave their less tenured associates out to dry.
    Then again, their "leadership" (i.e. administrators) does the same thing and they don't even have a union to blame.

  36. Paul: we may be having a grass is always greener argument here--

    "Government workers are generally insulated from all this. The tax money keeps flowing in, raises are granted (although I love the "that wasn't a raise, it was a cost-of-living adjustment" argument)" comment is way off-base. My husband and I both are state employees and were FROZEN for two years--no raise, no cost-of-living adjustment, no nothing. And, our agency was losing a lot of our talent to the private sector because frozen wages seem to be a deal breaker when recruiting and retaining (and let me add here that our health insurance premiums increased during this time period just like everyone else's in the country). Trust me, with 4 kids to take care of, I don't think "insulated" is an accurate description of what my husband I felt during that time period.

    I think I need to point out here that not all government employees are union. I am not a union employee, and I don't think I've received a call from Gov. Strickland asking me what I think we should do about the projected state revenue shortfall. I am not management either. I only state this because making broad sweeping statements can lead to dangerous assumptions, and I doubt that the many state prison employees and MRDD workers who have lost their jobs feel "insulated".

  37. Kelly:

    Good points. There was just recently an article in the Dispatch talking about Postal Service workers being offered early retirement, without any buyout incentives. Of course the USPS is a quasi-government agency which is expected to be mostly self-funding, and must compete directly with private companies, notably FedEx and UPS, and with innovation such as email. I like that they have to be responsive to the general economy, and suspect that one part of that evolution will be to bring USPS and private retirement benefits closer together.

    Forgive my hyperbole in this case. You and SJ both gave good examples of federal and state workers being subjected to layoffs.

    Nonetheless, there remains a growing gulf between private sector and public sector employment. While the risk of public sector layoff is not zero, it is much less likely. Meanwhile, for the Baby Boomers like me, the retirement benefits afforded most government workers is most definitely greener grass.

    Such retirement benefits are an aberation in the history of our country. My Dad enjoyed a great pension after working for the same company for 40 years. He was one of the hundreds of thousands of returning WWII vets which private industry clamored to hire after the women left industry and returned home to raise families. Pension promises were a key recruiting tool. The companies worried less about whether they could fulfill those promises than they were getting the workers necessary to take advantage of the economic boom that followed the war.

    We Boomers, the children of those vets, gleefully entered the labor force en masse in the 1960-70 timeframe, and companies found they didn't need to offer pension to attract workers - there were just too many of us looking for jobs. Instead of pensions, we got IRAs, 401(k) plans, and in some cases - stock options. Our retirement would be based on the performance of the financial markets, and in the case of stock options, the way the stock market liked the stock of our own company.

    Government workers never got a chance to enjoy stock options, IRAs or 401(k) plans.

    As it turns out, neither did the millions of private sector workers who came to think of the stock market as a sure thing, and saw their retirement savings evaporate in the dot com bust. Many people my age are starting over in trying to build a retirement nest egg. It isn't pretty.

    So you're probably right. There are times when the private sector looks like a better place to be than the public sector, and at other times, the reverse is true. Now is one of the latter times.

    The challenge is that few voters are willing to process this question philosophically, and will simply see it as a case of "I'm going down while they're going up - so they're not getting any more of my money."

    I think part of the answer is that public sector workers need to accept the dynamic I describe, and be willing to pull in the reins a little when things get tough in the private sector. That's why I propose the 3% rollback.

    And union workers in general, and our school employee unions in particular, need to decide if they will spread the pain across their whole membership, or just their newest members.


  38. Couldn't agree with you more--my father also retired after 30 years with the same company with an employee stock option plan, only to not be able to afford a private individual health plan. This is tragic in light of the fact that he has epilepsy and the medications he takes to keep from having seizures is $1500 a month.

    I hope that my point is not lost here--I just think that going after teacher salaries is a band-aid temporary fix.

    The real problem to me is that the district makes really dumb financial decisions (hence, my athletic program revenue statement earlier). Last year, I wrote checks for user fees totalling around $230 for 3 of my kids in the system, in addition to buying school clothes and purchasing school supplies, to pay for not only their electives but their core English, Math and Science courses as well.

    I'm officially tapped out, and a yes vote from me is going to require them to take a good hard look at their own systems and processes and make changes. Targeting teacher salaries just won't cut it in my mind; this goes far beyond that. I guess I can sum it up like this: I want them to give me no choice but to vote yes on the upcoming levy, make sense?

  39. Paul,

    Federal employees that were hired since the mid-80s are under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), which is a different system than Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

    FERS is a three-pronged system consisting of 1) Thrift Savings Program (TSP), 2) a small pension-like component and 3) Social Security. CSRS is your much more traditional pension system. Suffice it to say, that our TSP is based on investments (stocks, bonds, etc.). We are able to choose the mix, but investments way heavily on our TSP balances. Granted, I've given a quick, simplified version here.

    I also wanted to add that the Dept. of Defense is increasingly moving to more of a merit-based system (pay banding and the like) called NSPS (National Security Personnel System) and away from the old General Schedule (GS), published on the Office of Personnel Managment (OPM) website.

    Just thought you'd like to know that the even the public sector is undergoing changes. Again, I'm not going to claim that it compares to the private sector. I will also add that during good economic times, it is possible that private sector employees benefit more ($$$) than their public sector counterparts (???). I haven't done the research to know if that is the case.

  40. SJ:

    Thanks for the additional information.

    We should also make mention of a very special class of Federal employees - our men and women serving in the armed forces. They too have a pay scale in which compensation is dependent on rank and length of service. They also have very good pension benefits and excellent lifetime health benefits.

    And they deserve every damn penny of it and then some.