As the Governor Speaks; Tiverton School Committee to Parents: Flee now!
This is absurd. Superintendent Bill Rearick is going over budget woes with the Tiverton School Committee. First came the bad news that the district has to budget an additional $248,715 for healthcare, putting its current working budget $1.1 million over the spending cap.
Rearick’s recommendations were to:
- Use the $229,546 that it has this year (after TCC supposedly cut its budget) from changes to the pension system (to $911,000 over cap).
- Eliminate 2 special ed assistants, one part-time physical ed. high school, one in-school remediation position, and a part-time high school nurse (to $744,268)
- Cuts to office and student supplies, text books, and technology (to $624,440)
He says that the last couple of years, “we’ve been level funded,” speaking, I guess, of non-personnel expenses. Regarding unions, they’re “hoping to obtain certain concessions, but that’s not going very well.”
Things that Rearick blames for driving up budgets: end of magic Obama money, special ed requirements, career center tuitions, heating oil, electricity. No mention of the massive retroactive pay increase that the school committee approved last year. Rearick used that odious phrase about not having any more rabbits to pull out of the hat.
School Committee Chairman Jan Bergandy suggested that they might as well add $200,000 to the overage to cover litigation, because there’s no way through the mess otherwise (he likened it to a messy divorce). Data point: eliminating 10 full-time teachers would get to the whole $1.1 million. Oddly, nobody has calculated that a few percentage points of salary/benefits packages across the board would easily do the same.
Committee member Danielle Coulter suggested that the district go out to bid for healthcare coverage. Union-friendly committee member Carol Herrmann brought up the new healthcare panel that the General Assembly created in the dead of night and suggested that it “makes no sense to come up with our own alternative.” (Thanks Legislative Stooges!)
TCC President Dave Nelson just suggested that nothing should be cut. He pointed out that we’re cutting paper and pencils while the salary/benefit line item is increasing by more than $700,000. “We need to develop the political will to get the concessions.”
Doing anything else is unconscionable, especially with the NEA playing games with the state’s federal Race to the Top application.
Former school committee member Mike Burk doesn’t think many people want to cut teacher pay. In fact, he thinks the school committee’s current contract proposal is unreasonable. He wants to offer an “olive branch” to the union. Because they’re usually so agreeable. Burk also implied that those who wish to take a harder line with the unions are irrational.
I got up to suggest that it isn’t irrational for parents and taxpayers to look at charts such as these and notice that everything that the committee is talking about cutting has been essentially flat, on a per-student basis, for the past 10 years or so and suggest that it’s time to stop the other line, which grows reliably year after year, from growing year after year. Year after year. Again: the entire overage translates into a few percentage point reduction in pay and benefits. And that’s off an increased baseline (by more than $700,000).
Another active resident and parent (reliably supportive of every policy that is strangling the town and the state), Deb Pallasch, suggested that we all need to be cool headed and reasonable and not take any hard lines and all work together. Clearly, the committee is not interested in debates among the audience, so I didn’t return to the microphone to remind the committee that the last time I showed them my chart, they approved a large pay increase for teachers, with retroactive raises.
Last year, I spoke in response to their expressed hopes, and Pallasch’s suggestion, that they would just approve the contract so that the district could move on in a positive fashion and get the next negotiation off to a better start than implied by the acrimony of the last one. I warned the committee that it was obvious that the union would not negotiate according to schedule but would delay and delay until the economy improved and they could procure yet another retroactive raise, because to their experience, that is always the how things go.
For those who don’t recall recent history, I was right. This town and this state need to stop playing community (think “playing house”) when entrenched special interests are playing for keeps. The analogy I used while speaking a few minutes ago was that we have to stop playing footsie when the other side knows we’re boxing. These meetings are like a window into a bizarro world.
Perhaps that’s what was indicated by General Assembly Speaker of the House Bill Murphy and his chosen successor, Gordon Fox, were indicating that they don’t have to follow the rules of economics.