The Evidence of Affordability

WillP left a curious comment to my “Just a Quick Shake of the Head” post:

On what basis do you assume that this is an “unaffordable contract?” Do you have access to details of the current contract negotiations or budget data that the rest of us residents and parents don’t have? Again, you are assuming one side is telling the truth and the other isn’t, which is my dilemma. Based on my experience with this school committee and Superintendent over the last four years, reliablity and integrity aren’t high on the list of their positive traits. So finding myself in a quandary, if you have info I don’t have, please share.

Sure thing: The General Assembly flat funded schools. At the time of the strike (at least), the union was asking for larger raises than they’d gotten in the previous contract. I simply cannot afford for the cost of living in Tiverton to go up any more. Unaffordable.
From the perspective that WillP takes, affordability is apparently an actual dollar amount that the school committee and administration can conceivably produce to increase teachers’ remuneration. Certain caveats may or may not be involved: affordable if money is taken from other segments of the school’s budget; affordable if the town allocates a greater percentage of revenue to the schools; affordable if the town finds some way to draw more money from citizens’ pockets.
Of course, if one stands among a group that prioritizes the drawing of every possible penny out of a public body — and the willingness to strike as a negotiating tactic suggests that as a priority — anything is affordable. If one stands among families that can barely afford to keep their houses, nothing is.

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Willp
Willp
13 years ago

Justin,
I understand that the schools were flat funded, the new tax cap law and what has been printed in the papers about what is being requested in raises, etc. My point simply was that I am not privy to all the details of the negotiations, so I can’t possibly know what the financial implications are. I don’t know, for instance, if the union offered to take less sick or vacation days or reduce stipends or whatever. All I know is what the “sides” are saying. Not having confidence in this Administration based purely on my own experience, I have a hard time simply taking their “word for it.” That is not to say that I believe the union either -thus my quandary. I would like nothing better than for both sides to open up these negoitatins to the public, but realistically that is not going to happen.

Tom W
Tom W
13 years ago

The first question should be “are Tiverton’s teachers existing compensation package – pay, current and future benefits (pension and retiree health care) – competitive with those in the private sector for comparable skills and position requirements?”
If the answer is “yes” then “affordability” is not all that pertinent at this point – the existing package should be frozen.
If the answer is “no” then the ability to afford suitable increases becomes relevant.
It the answer is that the existing compensation package is higher than is competitive, then “givebacks” arguably become the order of the day (such as health care “co-shares”).
Given that public school teachers already get “12 month” pay and benefits for a “9 month” job, and a pension that is extraordinarily generous (and infinitely more generous than the “no pension” that the majority of taxpayers have), I’d say that major “givebacks” are the order of the day, not just in Tiverton, but throughout Rhode Island.
Only in the public sector is there this (now unrealistic) expectation that contract negotiations exist merely for determining how large a compensation increase will be “won” during “this” round of contract negotiations.
Welcome to the real world.

WillP
WillP
13 years ago

Also just curious why no posting re: the Tiverton Town Council’s ratification of the police contract (as reported in the Newport Daily News last week)that gave 10% raises over 3 years and requires them to pay only 6% of their healthcare? This certainly seems to fit the definition of “unaffordable.”

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

At the end of the day I don’t have a problem treating the guys that maintain Law and Order and put out fires and do it more than 180 days a year pretty well. If teachers could be shown to not be failing our children by leaps and bounds you might be able to start to sell me that teachers deserved similar treatment.

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