For at least the past year, the Budget Committee of the UPTC has asked for a multi-year budget projection from the Board of Education and implied a lack of transparency on the Board’s part because of its reluctance to provide one. I’ve attended all but one Board meeting this year, and the subject has come up at nearly every one.
As a result, at the April 24 meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Business John Powell made a presentation of the district’s six-year forecast. This included a projection of the tax cap as well as the revenue and expenditure projections. The most disturbing feature of the expenditures projection, to me, was the line for personnel services:
The first two years, of course, reflect collectively bargained salaries. The percentage figures include all increments: step and class. However, the last four years of the projection-which ALSO include all increments-have not yet been bargained: it is a public statement of the district’s goal for all bargaining units, including GNTA.
I understand that the district is under a great deal of pressure from a segment of the community that believes that expenditures can and should be cut further than they already have. After Mr. Powell’s presentation, the Board was pressed by several people to identify cuts that would be made if the projected revenues did not materialize: for example, what if fewer people than projected retire next year? or if required pension contributions go up instead of down as expected? The questioners made it clear that they do not want jobs cut or class sizes to go up. The only inference, then, is that they believe salaries should be cut.
So yes, with the rest of the Executive Board, I understand that the district is under a great deal of pressure. But we are deeply disturbed that, in effect, making public a target number of 2% for total salaries for the four years following the expiration of this contract in 2015 does, in effect, begin negotiations now rather than next February. We also believe that it puts GNTA (and all other bargaining groups) at a disadvantage by placing specifics of negotiations squarely in the public eye. Both of these circumstances, we believe, have established a negative climate for negotiations before they’ve even begun.
Four members of the Executive Board-Jim Daszenski (Vice President for Administration), Jennifer Snyder (Vice President for Professional Rights and Responsibilities), Kim Semder (Vice President for Contract Improvement), and I-will be meeting with the Board of Education and the Superintendent on Friday, May 30 at 4:00 for a frank discussion of this situation. It is important that we make clear how very disturbed we are.
Which brings me to an important related topic. Clearly, this round of negotiations will be like none we’ve experienced previously. By mutual agreement with the district, we have always kept negotiations behind closed doors, believing that it’s counterproductive to have the entire community weighing in on the merit of various proposals. This time, however, we may need to share more information with you, particularly if negotiations are protracted. School email is obviously not the best means of doing so; nor is this website, since it’s difficult to password protect it and yet keep it accessible to all. SO...if you want to receive whatever information the Negotiations Team believes should be shared, we are asking that you provide us with a private email address that we can use for that purpose.
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