Thursday, November 3, 2011

Worried about your job? Or know someone else who is?

Most of us who are vertical and taking nourishment know that the dominant theme of public discourse these days is jobs.  Millions have lost their jobs, unemployment is stuck at 9% plus, massive government spending is fixing nothing, and first time unemployment applications run about 400,000 a week.  Week after week.

In the midst of this economic goat rope, we’re forced to suffer the inane comments of our elite ruling class, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (or as we think of him, the Senate Mortician) and VP Joe (Joey Plugs) Biden prominent among them.  They want us to believe that things in the private sector are just peachy; it’s the public sector that is suffering.  Yah, shure, Oley.

We won’t bore you with source quotes; we have too much respect for your gastrointestinal well-being.  You can read the essentials here, complete with links to reference material.

As for the facts, you can go here to find figures based on the federal government’s own census data.  To put it mildly, Reid, Biden, and anyone else who backs them up on their claims are bald-faced liars, and should be brought up on charges for fragrant violation of the public trust.

Enough already.  We want to move on to local issues, the kind you’d expect to see discussed in the local press. If you believe in the tooth fairy and free lunches, that is.

We’ve reported on Brunswick School enrollment figures many times in the past, and most recently discussed it here.  Matched to budget figures, the net result is that per student expenditures have risen from less than $7000 per student in the first year of the new century to more than $13,500 per student in the current school year, or virtually double in a decade.

We had more than 3300 students then, and have less than 2500 now.  While not as severely, statewide enrolment has been declining steadily due to Maine’s demographic decline, a major problem in its own right.

Let’s move on to related school system employment.  Data received from town offices shows School Department employment of 398 early in this decade, rising to a peak of 415 three years ago, and a total of 396 in the fiscal year just passed.  These figures “represent the department’s best estimates of full time positions” according to a note on the data page.

Assuming the figures are valid, there was one school employee for every 8.47 students ten years ago, and one employee for every 6.47 students in the most recent fiscal year.  In so many words, department employment has remained largely flat in the face of a 27% decline in enrollment.  Can you think of any other ‘profession’ that would be able to hold employment steady with a 27% decrease in ‘clients?’  Keep in mind we’re operating two fewer schools than just a few years ago.

Here’s the ‘money fact:’ if the employee to student ratio had been held constant at 8.47, the department would have 303 employees now, or 93 fewer than the current total.  How much lower would that make your property tax bill?  Simple answer: a bunch.

Now the ‘money question:’ if enrolment had stayed flat over this time, how many employees might the department have added?  Would it be 93?  Actually, it could be considerably more if you go by the numbers alone.  At a ratio of 6.47, employment for 3350 students would be about 517, or over 120 more than the current figure and the head count a decade ago.

The pregnant puzzler, it goes without saying, is just how many new employees the department will demand if, against all odds, enrolment should start to rise again?

The underlying message here is that if you want to be immune from prevailing economic conditions, go to work for the government, and especially, the government schools.  Guaranteed raises, no performance standards, Cadillac benefits, and virtually lifetime employment no matter what.

We can only wonder when Harry the Undertaker and Joey Plugs will regale us with these inconvenient realities. 

And in a related story, hell freezes over.

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