If you have not already done so, I recommend reading an earlier article I posted titled "Teacher Salary History," to help understand some of the terms and concepts used in this article.
At the Board of Education meeting held Monday, September 27, 2010, the Board passed unanimously a resolution authorizing President Andy Teater and Superintendent Dale McVey to sign an extension to the Master Agreement between the Board of Education and the teachers' union, the Hilliard Education Foundation (HEA). The terms of this extension are straightforward:
- The current base salary of $38,362 will remain in effect through December 31, 2011, an extension of one year.
- While HEA members have already received their step increases for the 2010-2011 school year, the step increases for the 2011-2012 school year will be delayed six months – until December 31, 2011.
- All other provisions of the 2008-2010 Master Agreement remain in effect.
I would like to say thanks to the members of the Hilliard Education Association for agreeing to this one year contract extension at no base pay increase and a delay in the next step increase.
It has taken many years of hard work and community support to build one of the finest school systems in our State. Hard work on the part of the teachers, students, parents, staff and administrators, and financial support from all those – homeowners and businesses alike – who have continued to generously fund the mission of this district.
This is a time of great uncertainty for our school district, our community, our State and our Country. I suspect that nearly all of us know a neighbor who has lost their job and is struggling to avoid losing their home as well, often at the expense of their already-battered retirement savings. Many more have seen their pay reduced – enough to force unpleasant changes to their lifestyle.
And we have a state government that is seemingly clueless as to how they will deal with a mismatch between revenue and spending that is reportedly on the order of $8 BILLION over the next two years. Balancing the state budget will require spending cuts of a magnitude that are not easily comprehensible.
Without question, the State will solve some of its problems by decreasing its funding to districts like ours – districts which most members of the General Assembly view as having more than enough local financial resources to cover any reduction in state funding. I'm sure we all took note when at the dedication of Bradley High School, Governor Strickland thanked us for constructing that building without benefit of state money. The people who run our State think there is more money where that came from.
The state budget situation is going to hurt us in the wallet – we just don't know how badly yet. While we wait to see what happens after the November elections, I appreciate that the HEA understands the situation, and is willing to stand by until the funding picture becomes clearer.
A year from now, we'll be right back at the table with the HEA, trying to decide whether to tack on another year of extension to the 2008-2010 contract, or whether it is time to dig deeper into the relationship and negotiate a new master agreement. What will we know then that we don't know now?
For one thing, we'll know the outcome of this November's elections. Will Governor Strickland be reelected, or will John Kasich be our new Governor? Regardless of who is elected, they'll have the same immediate budget crisis to fix. No matter what strategy the next Governor might have for generating new revenue, I have little doubt that the Governor and General Assembly will have to implement drastic spending cuts. Forecasting revenue gains is an exercise in speculation; spending cuts are definite and immediate.
What will happen at the Federal level?
Hilliard City School is slated to receive a one-time shot of $1,856,748 from the Education Jobs Fund legislation passed by Congress in August 2010. If the Democrats hold power in Washington, will there be more of this kind of funding coming down the pike? If the Republicans take the majority in either or both of the houses, will it be the end of such Federal largess?
I'm assuming what some will call the worst case – that neither the State nor Federal governments will be sending any money our way in excess of our current funding. In fact, I'm relatively confident that our State funding will continue to decrease in the next few years.
This will bring great financial pressure to our school district, and will force us to strip away all the ancillary conversations and deal with the central equation:
The amount we must pay in local property taxes is directly determined by the compensation and benefits negotiated into the contracts with our teachers, staff and administrators.
The next big issue we all must deal with is balancing our own budget for the school district. While FY2011 looks to be generally okay, the Five Year Forecast paints a picture every bit as scary as of the State's budget. As it stands, the Forecast shows an accumulated deficit of $55 million by the end of FY2014 (the year ending June 30, 2014).
To cover that solely with new local taxes, and with no reductions in forecasted spending, would require a levy on the order of 7.6 mills to be passed in May 2011 in order to end FY2014 with zero money in the bank. To restore a 10% cash reserve, as is Board policy, the levy would need to be 10 mills.
Even if we held spending to FY2011 levels (the year we're in right now), we would still need approximately 1.75 mills just to run out of money at the end of FY2014. To end FY2014 with a 10% cash reserve requires a 4 mill levy this May – if we were to hold spending at FY2011 levels for the next three years. This is because we are already spending more than we take in – to the tune of $5 million this year.
The implications of that statement are clear: for there not to be a levy on the ballot in May, we would have to cut annual spending by at least $5 million – more if we think funding from the State is going to diminish, and I do.
I accept that there will be a levy on the May ballot. The question is how large it will be.
This is where you come in. You have to participate in the discussion of what this school district is going to look like in the coming years, and how much we are collectively willing to pay to make it so. Central to this will be the parameters of the collective bargain agreements with the unions representing the teachers and staff of the district, as well as the administrative contracts.
Sitting at home fuming over newspaper and blog articles won't help. Bitching about things with your neighbors doesn't cut it. Comments made on this blog article are helpful, but we frankly don't hear from enough folks – a small fraction of the total number of readers.
You need to come to Board meetings and speak during the time for public participation, write letters to the Board, submit letters to the editors of our weekly newspapers, and rally your neighbors to do the same. Your elected representatives serve you best when we understand what you want.
Democracy is not a spectator sport...