Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Residents petition board for balanced budget, no tax increase

According to the Courier Times' recap of last night's school board meeting . . .

Two district residents presented the Neshaminy school board Tuesday night with petitions totaling 150 signatures asking the board for a balanced budget and new teacher deal without raising taxes.
Lower Southampton resident Connie Patrick also walked door to door for 50 signatures from people who are financially struggling in this recession. "We're all in bad trouble," she said. "I'm angry and frustrated. They're dedicated with a special gift, but teachers have to compromise." A few more speakers also reiterated a desire for a salary freeze, staff reduction, getting politicians involved in the process, and eliminating the full retirement benefits package, which is a current board position.

To read the complete article, click here.


JS said...

Since we literally can't afford the contract we are offering the teachers (Even if they take the most recent offer I doubt it would shave $14 million off of expenditures), shouldn't the board be thinking of a different offer to put out there?

I know that is a hard sell because of the already grand canyon-esque difference between their past contract and the current offer. The thing is a contract the District can afford is one they don't have to raise taxes to pay for. Isn't that economics 101. If I have only $2 in my pocket, I can't buy something that is $3.

IrishFarm said...

I understand your statement JS but am not sure it's realistic under the circumstances. The teachers control the destiny of the negotiations. If they don't want to negotiate, the worst that can happen is we keep working under the agreement in place or both parties agree to arbitration. Neither situation will benefit the district and the union knows that. The only possible way to get the union back to the table is to offer them something they're willing to live with. Offering a pay freeze and ask for 25% in benefits contribution won't cut it. That's why this board is going to have to give them something. The public won't like it, the teachers won't really like it either. Both sides will be angry at the school board when in reality they didn't have much of an option.

JS said...

I just think the district should aim even lower, because arbitration will only look to find a middle ground.

Middle ground favors the group that hasn't given any concessions (the teachers). If the Board shows it's going to open the gap and let arbitration find the middle, the teachers might realize they need to move.

I still would like someone who knows the law behind it tell me why if their contract has expired, why we still have to keep paying them everything.

From what I understand "extensions" are how this process goes on. Can't the District simply stop agreeing to extensions?

KClarinet said...

I'd still like to know where the state mediator fits into all this.

Non-binding arbitration is often a split-it-down-the-middle decision that J.S. describes, but it's a non-starter. Regardless of whether or not the NFT would accept it, school boards have historically refused to accept non-binding arbitrated settlements.

Binding arbitration is, from what I've ever read, more frequently based on a last-best-offer from each side and the arbitrator picks one or the other. It's meant to encourage both sides to make a reasonable offer. But school boards don't generally like those either, because, like a non-binding settlement, it's viewed as having an outsider determine a major expense in the district's budget and, hence, forcing the board to levy taxes it doesn't want to impose.

I'm not certain, but I believe that many big city service contracts where there is no right to strike at all - police, fire, trash - are settled each year through last-best-offer binding arbitration.

(a) the board's stated unwillingness to even discuss other matters until the health care issue is resolved (read until the NFT publicly capitulates on the issue);
(b) the NFT's refusal to change its position (at least through any means other than the bargaining table - which means getting there first), it's hard to see how any movement will be generated anytime soon without a push from outside. (c) the NFT's inability to call a meaningful strike - strikes are too limited under the law to do anything more than cause temporary inconvenience and inflame the community and
(d) the board's apparent lack of legal means to force movement,

it seems like the mediator is the best hope at this point. I know one must be involved. But I don't read anything suggesting any activity on his/her part.