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Principals Agree To Limit Salaries, BoE Hopes Teachers Follow

Principals and school managers agreed to use one healthcare provider and limit salary increases to help Port Chester schools seal a $2.1 million budget deficit.

Port Chester's principals and managers agreed to limit salaries and healthcare options on Tuesday, when they renegotiated their contract to help the district overcome a $2.1 million budget deficit.

While the savings from the 15-member union won't make more than a dent in the budget gap, the school board hopes Port Chester's teachers union set by their managers.

Last week, several people familiar with ongoing negotiations told Patch the teachers union that could save school programs and jobs. By agreeing to limit salary increases to one percent and settling on one healthcare provider, the Port Chester Teachers Association could help the district save more than $2 million, they said.

Teachers say the union hasn't put the proposal . Some parents and untenured junior teachers say they're not happy with that decision, at a time when the district is trying to scrounge up money through and school employees are organizing lobbying trips to Albany in an effort to save .

The renegotiated contract with the Port Chester School Administrators and Supervisors Association (PCSASA) mirrors the proposal put to the teachers union.

Principals and managers agreed to use the cheaper Statewide Schools Cooperative Health Plan, or SWSCHP, as the default health insurance plan instead of Aetna or Oxford. They can still choose the latter plans, but they would be required to make up the difference.

SWSCHP coverage costs $19,402 per family per year, according to the district, while Aetna and Oxford cost $32,000. Although the district did not say how many principals and managers used Aetna and Oxford, the concession could save the district as much as $180,000 a year.

In addition, the union agreed to limit salary increases to one percent annually through 2013. In exchange, union members will get two extra days off per year.

While the teachers union contract expired last year, the PCSASA contract wasn't set to expire until June of this year. The fact that the union was willing to renegotiate now signals its commitment to students, school board members said.

“The PCSASA members have shown that they understand the importance of reducing the local tax burden by responding to the limitations placed on the district by the state-imposed property tax levy cap,” said Blanca Lopez, the school board's president. “We appreciate their informed leadership, sensitivity to the needs of the community, and their actions to address these challenges.”

In the meantime, the school community braces for the closing of the Early Learning Center at , a transition to half-day kindergarten and the possibility of 30 fewer teachers in classrooms this fall.

Statements and actions by school leaders indicate they believe lobbying for state aid is Port Chester's best shot at closing the budget gap. School board member Bob Johnson returned on Monday from a lobbying trip to Albany, and on Port Chester Patch.

"Although [legislators] listened carefully to my story and I could tell that they are empathetic to our plight, I am not feeling confident that, as a group, that they understand the 'educational insolvency' we are facing," Johnson wrote.

Check back with Port Chester Patch for updates.

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George Datino March 14, 2012 at 11:24 AM
“The PCSASA members have shown that they understand the importance of reducing the local tax burden by responding to the limitations placed on the district by the state-imposed property tax levy cap,” said Blanca Lopez, the school board's president. Why does the BOE blame this on the Tax Cap? From what I can tell, after going through some 2012-2013 budget material,the deficit is coming from expenses, not revenue. With the allowable Tax Levy increase, there is a $1.2 Million Dollar increase in the Tax Levy and a projected increase in State and Federal aid of over $0.6 million and local resouces of about $0.3 million. There is a reduction in the Fund Balance of about $0.7 million. Adding all that together, there is a projected increase in revenue of about $1.5 million dollars. There is a $4.5 Million INCREASE in expenses. Over $4.3 million dollars, comes under two line items (Instruction ($2 million increase) and Employee Benefits ($2.3 million increase)). The Teacher Retirment System (TRS) had a 8.62% rate in 2010/2011 school year. It shot up to 11.11% in 2011/2012 and there is another projected increase to 12.5% in 2012/2013. With or without the Tax Cap, these numbers aren't going to go away. Unless something gives in Albany to change how education is funded or how much it costs, sooner or later every school district will be going down this road. Of course here in the PCSD, we can always hope for some more fires to help alleviate some of the overcrowding!
PC Lover March 14, 2012 at 11:28 AM
If the teachers' contract expired last year, why do they continue to have those choices?
George Datino March 14, 2012 at 11:45 AM
The 1982 Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law prohibits a public employer from altering any provision of an expired labor agreement until a new agreement is reached. Until a new agreement is reached, both sides are bound by the terms of the expired contract.
John B March 14, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Kudos and thank you school administrators.
Mary Touri March 14, 2012 at 06:00 PM
I am not surprised that all our amazing Principals put the teachers & students first...they do it everyday ! Thankyou PC School Principals
Mark D. Santora March 14, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Everything in the contract stays the same except no raises are extended. Teachers could have renegotiated two years ago and avoided this mess . Jobs could have been saved and teachers probably could have done what the admins have just accomplished. Union could have looked ater all its members and the community and the big picture as well.
Aidan March 15, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Listen, I am grateful for the sacrifices made by this bargaining unit. It's both wise and well received. And the teachers' union should follow suit .... so that the BOE can tabulate new figures and make needed decisions regarding next year's programs. But, this is one huge band-aid. It is NOT a solution. Salaries are increasing alarmingly. The current salary schedule insures that substantial increases will occur every year. And the compounding of these increases will lead to financial pressures for as far as the eye can see. This shortfall is not going to vanish with concessions or even the return of "good times". This is now a year-to-year scrum between the BOE and the teachers' union. Salaries are now so rich that even modest contractual hikes ... coupled with step increases ... result in yearly raises of several thousand dollars per teacher. Where's the money going to come from? The breaking point is here. Now is the time for the BOE to make a dramatic stand on this issue. The structure is unsustainable.
Aidan March 15, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Just to clarify. Mark, raises DO take place even under the Triborough Amendment. All teachers who are still on "steps" in the salary schedule WILL get their step increase ... just for returning to work in the fall. In many cases, that is STILL a raise of several thousand dollars per teacher. Triborough DOES NOT freeze most teachers' salaries. Those at the top ... the most senior faculty members ... who've moved past the top step might not see a raise, but the majority of the teachers are still part of the "step" situation.
George Datino March 15, 2012 at 10:58 AM
All jobs are worth "X" amount of dollars in total compensation (salary + benefits + other compensation) that is "Market" driven. Employers should expect their annual cost for that position to be within a market driven range. In the past, public sector jobs usually had a lower salary relative to private sector jobs but their total compensation was on par by more expensive benefits. What is occuring here is the costs for these positions are rising at a rate that is higher than inflation and the taxpayers cannot keep up. Besides salary increases, the cost of the benefits (health care, pension,etc.) are rising at a rate that is unsustainable. Port Chester (for all the reasons that have been listed in the past - like overcrowding) is feeling the effects of this first but sooner or later, all will be feeling this pinch. What private companies are still bound by market driven costs for job positions but they have been able to keep the costs down by doing things like going from a pension offer to a 401K program. They annually shop their healthcare insurance out and change from one program to another if it makes financial sense to do so. They will offer different choices in plans, however, the extra cost of the better plan will be paid for by the employee. Bonuses are sometimes given instead of salary increases or in conjunction with a minimal salary increase. This keeps the overall cost of the position lower going forward.
Aidan March 15, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Your comments make great sense. Too many public sector jobs operate in a bubble that is so detached from the world of work for most Americans. The same forces that drive businesses to make certain cost-reducing decisions ... so that they remain solvent ... do not apply to public sector employment. That's why the salary schedule is so smothering. The BOE is hamstrung by this out-dated march to higher salaries based simply on time served. If that applied in the real world of work, well, we'd have bankruptcies happening on a daily basis. But taxpayers are supposed to "absorb" this anomaly year after year. And when cut-backs are threatened, well, the stuff hits the fan. There has to be a fairer and more cost efficient method to arrive at just compensation that is reactive to the economic reality of the day ... as it is in the business world. To ignore these basic principles of solvency is absurd. This system is structurally doomed. All the "band-aid" attempts still leave us in the same situation down the line: schools that will soon outstrip the ability of the taxpayers to fund them. Don't pass up this opportunity to get it right for once and for all.
Mark D. Santora March 15, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Aidan, You are correct! Steps do count. I was thinking of % raises. Anyone 14 year or less get steps. Anyone over 14 years will get no raise. Mea Culpa.
Saverio Terenzi March 15, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Another major problem occured when revaluation was put into place in the Town of Rye. I personally agreeded with the concept of reval but it created an artifically high value on the properties with increased the total tax dollars available to be spent on municipal goverment budgets. We are now in a readjustment phase where the property values have corrected over the last 3 years to almost a 20% reduction in value. In the Village of Port Chester that has caused almost a $4,000,000 reduction in actual tax dollars, that along with normal raises, out of control pension & health care costs has put all these budgets at a major inflection point. Another major problem is that the School budget is passed by the voters at large. In years past there was a major give and take. Seniors on fixed incomes would be more inclined to vote down big tax rate increases. PTA moms would rally the troops for what they felt was their fair share for their children's benefit, sometime there were stand offs that forced prior school boards to redo their budgets. When STAR was adopted the impact on the seniors tax bill wasn't notices and that voting block became less motivated to challenge that school budget. What's the answer?? It's in Albany, the way school funds are generated has to be changed. It can't be just on property values. Their has to be a hybrd system that takes into account incomes and values. School districts like PC just can't do it without cutting back services.
Mark D. Santora March 16, 2012 at 12:35 AM
You are spot on Sam!
Robert Johnson March 16, 2012 at 02:11 AM
I, too, commend the Administrators for coming to this important agreement and for their everyday hard work with our teachers and students. This thread is filled with very thoughtful and informative comments. This past weekend, representing the PC BOE, I went up to make our case (for increase funding and mandate relief) to Albany on our school district's behalf. I was in the room when the governor's budget director Robert Menga criticized New York School Board members, telling us that we are not doing enough to help our schools. "Facing Angry School Boards, Megna Says Negotiate Harder...(see link below)" Our entire state education system is at an important crossroad. As citizens and elected officials we need to continue to put the pressure and advocate for a change in the state aid formula and for mandate relief. When you read the article pasted below you will get a sense of the frustrations felt by the whole New York School community. http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/120415/facing-angry-school-boards-megna-says-negotiate-harder/
Aidan March 16, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Mr. Terenzi is right on the money. Relying solely on property values to fund education will, in the end, kill the public school system. And there is no reason why there should be such inequality among school districts. It seems to be the only situation that has escaped the recent rush to create a "level playing field". It's odd. We have strict guidelines regarding minority rights in housing and the work place. And in college acceptances. We make certain that there's no discrimination based or age or sex or creed. We see to the rights of the handicapped and guarantee medical care for the poorest in society. Yet we allow wildly different educational experiences for all of our children ... because the formula for funding is based on property values. It's asinine ... and unfair.
George Datino March 16, 2012 at 10:58 AM
Sam, I am sure it is from a lack of a financial background on my part but I am not following the first part of your post when you say the reval increased the tax dollars spent. From my rudimentary knowledge of the property tax process, how much money that is collected and spent is based on the Budget of the municipality. The Total Assessed Values of all the properties, whether all artifically high or low is simply used to calculate how that budget number is going to be divided amongst the property owners. Tax Levy divided by Total Assessed Value = Tax Rate. If the Tax Levy stays the same from one year to the next and the Total Assessed Value doubles from one year to the next (and assuming every individual assessment double's), the only thing that would change is that the Tax Rate would be halved but everyone would still pay the same and the amount collected would be the same. So I am not sure I am following when you say it created an increase in available tax dollars. Now, if you are saying, local politicians used some word games based on terms like Tax Rate increases and such so they were able to boost up the Tax Levy from one year to the next, I am not sure that is the fault of the Reval. Anyway, if you can take the time to clear up my confusion, it would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Saverio Terenzi March 16, 2012 at 02:06 PM
George, In the Village Dan Brakewood did an interesting analysis whereby he plotted the tax levy over a 15 year period.There was a window around the time of the reval that the total pool of of "tax levy" jumped dramatically higher than the tax rate increase for that year. Both of our assumptions were that when we went from an equalization formula to a full value that thing s got completely out of whack, Without diving into the details of the school budgets my theory in the years that reval kicked in even though the tax rates only went up at let say inflation rate that there was a windfall of tax dollars because when the new rate was multiplied by the an inflated market value. I also see your point that the levy should have run with the total dollars needed to balance the school budgets but that doesn't pan out in the Village of PC budgets. I don't profess to know the inner workings of the BOE budgets, I do believe Maura does a great job and has a handle on the numbers but when I hear stories on how Edison school has ESL teachers and people tell me that those kids all speak better english than me or you without those extra classes than I have to wonder what types of federal and state mandates are killing the system. This problem is only going to get worse, like I say the BOE has to be vigilant in controlling costs until such time as the economy turns around and people feel copmfortable that they are not going to loss everything they have worked so hard .
George Datino March 16, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Thanks for your reply Sam. However, with all that you said, I still am at a loss to figure out how the Total Assessed Value and Tax Rate have any bearing on the Tax Levy. The Total Assessed Value is an independent number and the Tax Rate is derived by Dividing the Tax Levy by the Total Assessed Value. The reverse is meaningless. You can't go from year to year using the Tax Rate from one year to derive the Tax Rate for the next. Just makes me think people used the reval as a way of selling us a bill of goods to get more money. The amount of money an entity budgets to spend from one year to the next is independent of Assessed Values and Tax Rates. Once all the expected expenditures are added up, you would then start subtracting the expected income from sources (Fed Govt, State Govt, Other Taxes and Fees, the Commercial Property Taxes and Residental Property Taxes). The amount of the "Spend" that would be the responsibility of the Residental Property Taxes would then be divided by the Total Assesed Value of all the residental properties to come up with the Residental Tax Rate. It simply doesn't work going the other direction.
Juan Jose Chajon March 16, 2012 at 05:19 PM
To all the people who has posted their comments it is Important to show up at the board meeting and talk to people in the schools, because not every body have access, time or decire to follow the news. But, if people like you who understand the issues and explain to people like me, I think, like a community, together we can bring change for the best. Lets say.... No.... to the Budget so They( The board, the Union, the Administrator can go back to the table and redo the budget) with the input of people Like all of you. Bring your Ideas from Posted Comments to all of Us, Thank you
Blogger March 16, 2012 at 09:09 PM
@Juan Jose Chajon, yes, the Port Chester community needs to work together to find a solution. However, if you care about students and education, voting NO for the budget is not going to help. A school district only has 2 chances to pass a budget. If it fails both times, the district must adopt a contingency budget. A contingency budget means even more teacher cuts. Voting NO does not help the school system. Voting NO makes a bad situation even worse.
PC Lover March 16, 2012 at 09:55 PM
To Linda O'Connor and the Teachers Union: Please state your position for all to see. Your contract is expired and it does not seem you are negotiating in good faith. Rumors abound that you are not polling your membership AND not taking any action steps toward resolution one way or the other. Why are the good people of Port Chester who pay your salaries and benefits being held hostage? Why do you not speak to us? Why do you think you are above us or are not answerable to us? Where are the depth of feelings and concern that brought the Administrators to the table, to agreement and to resolution? Lay it all out for us, Linda...what is your position in this mess? Don't we have a right to know?
Juan Jose Chajon March 16, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Hi Blogger, I am aware of the situation, but before we run with this option presented to us we NEED to make sure that the Board has check every alternative solution, and have all the parts involved to make the necessary changes, so next year we don't meet here again talking about the same problems. We need to control the cost and manage better our resources, we need to keep pushing in Albany to get our fare share, on my part I have been collecting signatures with other parents and informing the rest of the population about our situation. There are a lot of smart people in Port Chester who can come with inputs and fresh ideas, once we have this opportunity, if there isn't another choice and then I will be hundred percent behind the budget. This is a great opportunity for Port Chester to come together. The other night someone highlighted the unique problems of Port Chester and I agree, that we are unique not due to our problems, but because our people.
JJ March 18, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Great comments; Thanks to all for the information.

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