Monday, May 15, 2017

School Department salary “justice;” how much longer must our public servants suffer?

First, we begin with a post-script to yesterday’s post on New School Kool-Aid.  In FY 05, when school enrollment was at a high of 3,372 students, with four elementary schools in operation, the school budget was $27.7 million.  Here we are, staring at a proposed budget of $38 million, with one thousand less students, and only two elementary schools in operation, one of which is a LEEDS certified big money saver.  That’s right: over $10 million more in operating cost for 1,000 fewer students!

And “Great Schools Brunswick” has the temerity and unmitigated gall to whine about “limited resources” and “desperate budget shortfalls?”  And in the face of the maintenance policies cited, and this increase in funding, to cite ‘worn out buildings that have been identified as “a catastrophe waiting to happen.?”’ If they are so, guess who is responsible?

Are we as stupid as they think we are?  Or are they even more stupid than those who pay for these derelictions of duty?  Either way, their rhetoric is insulting at every level.

Moving On

Now on to today’s subject.  That friend of ours who has been diligently researching School Department data, and seeking answers to some obvious questions, has forwarded more data provided to her by the Business Manager at Department offices.

Here they are for your edification.  This first item is pretty obvious in it’s content.


Note that while some salary increases are modest, no one goes without a raise.  The HBS principal, we should note, is a more junior replacement for a senior level employee that moved on.  The Business Manager gets a 7% increase; the Curriculum Coordinator gets a 9% increase; the Assistant Superintendent gets a 17% increase; and the Technology Director gets a 7% increase.  This is without considering increases in their benefit costs where applicable; as you can see we pay more than $20,000 a year for health coverage for most.

You might compare these figures to your circumstances and annual salary increases.

The item just below shows that employees pay at most 15% of their health care coverage.  Again, compare that with your circumstances and those you know who work in the private sector.  (personal memory flogger: before becoming Medicare eligible, we paid $972 monthly for staying on the health plan of the employer from whom we retired after 35 years.  I suppose it would have been twice that by now.)


Just below is the salary chart for the coming year out of the Teachers Contract.  Be sure to note the cash payments at the bottom of the chart that add considerably to the “junior” salaries.


Now here’s the distribution of the teaching corps across those salary entries in the table above.


We think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of teachers are in the $60,000 to $75,000 salary range (plus benefits of $20,000 plus), keeping in mind that this is for a 182.5 day work year.  It’s also fair to say that the MINIMUM salary for a 5 day work week is $1,000, not including benefits.  In most settings, that would be considered a pretty good salary fresh out of college.  Especially when you see that automatic annual increases (both merit and longevity) in the range of 5% are included in the contract!

Which brings us to the conclusion of this little narrative.  Some of you may remember the much loved Jim Ashe, who preceded the current superintendent.  He was fond of saying that the regular budget increases were “due to costs beyond our control.”  I frequently took him to task for this deception by pointing out that the only “costs beyond our control” were those related to weather for the most part, and the occasional facilities based maintenance surprise.

All the other increased costs were not “beyond our control,” but in fact had been previously agreed to in various contracts approved by the administration and the School Board.  So he could try to sell crazy elsewhere, because we’ve got our fill here.

Along these very lines, I recently came across some documents that reinforce our point.  It turns out that the Teachers Contracts on their create enough budgetary increase pressure.  But if you look at these items:

you’ll see that numerous other positions in the department are directly tied to the Teachers Contract with multiplying factors.  So when the innocent Board Members, Union Leaders, and Superintendent go off to negotiate the new Teachers Contract, they are doing much more than that.

Here’s a sample from the first one:


You really must read the entire document….it’s only 3 pages….to see the other little pot sweeteners thrown in.

And now the same data from the second one; again, read the whole document, in which you’ll see work weeks are 42 and 44 weeks.


So what are the takeaways from this little narrative?  We can think of two:

1) You probably now know more about School Department compensation realities than most School Board members, all town council members, and all but the teenie-weeniest percentage of town taxpayers.

2) The next time some bloviator tells you how long-suffering and underpaid teachers and administrators are, tell them to go sell the idea somewhere else.

As scarce as truth is, the supply always seems to exceed the demand.  Winston Churchill famously said, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."

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