Friday, January 15, 2010

Thumbs up for outsourcing

The following editorial is reprinted here with permission from the Bucks County Courier Times.

Thumbs Up (Bucks County Courier Times, 1/15/2010)

To the Neshaminy School District outsourcing support-staff work. Separate proposals to turn over transportation services and custodial duties to private companies would over five years save taxpayers about $30 million, based on bids obtained by the district. The school board should do it — because the gain for taxpayers far outweighs the pain for union employees.

The transportation company would retain 90 percent of existing staff and workers would keep their current pay rate. The company would pick up 70-80 percent of workers’ health insurance costs, leaving the balance for employees to pay. True, that would be a big hit for workers to absorb, but it would put them on par with folks in the private sector. Additionally, the company would buy the district’s bus fleet and pay rent for garage and office space. Overall savings: almost $16 million.

Using similar cost-conscious tactics, the company bidding for custodial services would save taxpayers about $14 million.

Is this is a no-brainer or what?


Teacher said...

The Courier has certainly made their feelings known about teacher and support staff CBAs time and time again. During this time of tax payer revolt it is very difficult to defend the compensation awarded to those who work in education. While I agree that we should negotiate for a more reasonable benefits package, I am afraid that the public will lose all perspective when it comes paying for good educators.

A hypothetical question for those who frequent this blog - if we agreed to the board's offer exactly as it is, would you be satisfied with our concessions? Or in three years would you ask us to concede even more?

acs said...

Teacher and all union staff, Read former SB director and one of the board's CBA negotiators Dr. Spitz's guest opinion from election day. Everyone should read this since I think it was lost in the election fray and it is the most logical and rational explanation of the need for the board to hold firm. To quote:
"By any measure, the expired agreement as written and the NFT's proposals to address the issues mentioned above are both unaffordable and unreasonable. The board's current offer would simply make Neshaminy's contract look more like those of every other district. It is not just the fair thing to do; it is the ONLY thing to do if we want Neshaminy to continue to provide excellent educational programs for our students."

I think it says it all. We are just trying to undo the wrong that prior boards did and get back to Par with surrounding district's employee contracts. It is only reasonable to get at least to that point to be "FAIR" to taxpayers and students.
In the next contract it is likely that like all people there will continue to be escalation of healthcare costs(since O-Care will not help lower cost) so it would be expected that union workers pay more in next contract like we all do every year not only every 3 years.

acs said...

By the way. How do you all feel about labor unions coercing a sitting president on health care so they don't get taxed The unions own Obama and Harrisburg. Can you believe that scam. 12% of workers totally screw the rest of us to pay for them because they own a President. Teachers and support staff public workers are worst offenders. Outsource whereever we can unions are really Anti-American.

Wing Man said...

ACS, I'm not in a union but have a great benefits plan that attracted me to the company I work for. Why should I get taxed on something I've earned? Those benefits are part of my compensation. I bust my butt in my job and I don't like anyone taking my compensation out of my pocket. Why does everyone think it's ok to tax someone better of than them but then cry socialism when they get taxed?

JS said...

Teacher, I think there will be a backlash even if you take the proposed contract.

Here's why.

I believe the offer still is a 3 year deal (with the first year, 2008 with no retro pay). That would make this deal up in 2011. 2011 is right at the precipice before the impending pension fund losses hit the tax payers.

Now I will agree that the teachers all along have been paying there percentage. That percentage stayed at 7% even after the 25% pension hike in 2001, so in essence teachers haven't been paying up to their level either (since a 25% increase should result in 25% more in payments).

So as this deal ends there will be an impending doom on the horizon for taxpayers. Who's at fault really won't matter if people are looking $900+ increase in taxes just to address pension issues. All tax payers will see is that why should they have to lose $900 to pay for someone elses retirement.

I realize no one would ever want to lower their pension, but you (and your fellow teachers) should lobby Harrisburg to do something now, before things get intense. Once those tax increases are staring us in the face EVERY teacher (as well as administrator and school employee, and not just in Neshaminy) will be seen as the villain.

If the entire state revolts at the same time about teachers/school unions there might be dire consequences. Make an effort to lessen the shock now and there might only be a thunderstorm instead of a hurricane.

acs said...

William, I want to clarify my last entry. What I meant to say was when you see a special deal struck behind closed doors with a single group of workers that just happen to be in bed with democrat leaders and their biggest contributors, , at the expense of fairness to the vast majority of American workers it is anti-American in principle. This then relates to all union workers who are given a special advantage none of us have in obama care. Wasn't this the president of transparency and change? This is neither. Thoughts?

William O'Connor said...

I assumed that's what you meant all along ACS. You don't strike me as the "what's yours in mine" type. I'm sure Wing Man will breathe a sigh of relief that you're not after his comp package :-)

I'll refrain from answering your other question regarding the fairness of this concession to unions as it falls outside of what I like to discuss on this blog. That's not to say that I don't have an opinion, just that I don't want this to be the place for it.

srodos said...

In my opinion the complaint of the public is with the benefits portion of the existing contract. Specifically, the percentage of health care contribution (currently 0%),lump sum payment at retirement ($27,000), and health care for retirees (100%). I do not believe that there will be a contract unless and until all of these areas are addressed to the Board and the public's satisfaction. I am not proposing that all be addressed in year one, only that a schedule be put in place so that in 3 years these areas have undergone significant change. In this way senior employees (approximately 60 with over 30 years of service) can retire gracefully and the overall pay scale will begin to skew in a younger direction,thus also reducing the percentage of the budget dedicated to payroll expense.

KClarinet said...

JS said "I believe the offer still is a 3 year deal (with the first year, 2008 with no retro pay). That would make this deal up in 2011."

I don't know what the legal issues are, but if there is no retro-activity (which I assume would be true for the entire contract, not just the salary schedule), why wouldn't it start at the point of ratification by both sides (ending at the end of whatever is the final year covered) or, at least, from the beginning of the school year in which it is ratified? What's the point of dating a contract back to 2008 if nothing owed from then is going to be collected on (I assume) either side?

Str8 Shutr said...

Bill, don't you think the board has backed themselves into a corner and now has no choice but to outsource? I mean, if the support union were to accept your offer (don't hold your breath), you would make significant savings but not as much as if you guys did outsource. Then you would have to cut some programs. How would you explain that to the public?

I'm not criticizing you, in fact I am applauding what this board has done. You have given the support union plenty of time to come around to the reality of the situation but they still live in denial. Somehow these people want the public to support them by claiming nobody can drive a bus or serve pizza as well as they can.

It's time to pull the trigger so let's just get it over with and move on.

acs said...

Str8, Word to the wise, it is William! I learned the hard way.

abc123 said...

I ask that you print my submission. From now on I will respect your website's rules for conduct.
This time I agree with what Teacher said. We are in a time of taxpayer revolt, and an angry public will oppose any expenditure. I am not saying it is right or wrong, just simply acknowleding that it is.
I further acknowledge that tax payers have a right to expect concessions from both the NFT and NESPA over CBA issues.
My concern, and I think this is to Teacher's point, is that no matter how many concessions the NFT and NESPA make, it won't ever be enough because they have become easy targets.
For argument's sake let's say that NFT and NESPA agree to every single concession stipulated by the board. Watch how quickly the public will turn on you Mr. O'Connor for not doing enough. They will say you lacked spine for not making certified and support staff take pay cuts despite everything else you will have accomplished. Then in 3 years the public will again scream for even more concessions and salary cuts. And when that isn't enough, then it will be demands to cut art and music classes, then extracurricular activities. It will never end until Neshaminy's education has gone down the toilet.
You say that children's education is first and I know you mean it, but do they mean it? Is the public really concerned about our students' future, or are they more interested in reducing their tax bills so they can go to AC or the slots?
I am not saying you should or should not outsource, and it's up to you whether to hold steadfast in contract negotiations with the NFT or not. Whatever you decide, do it for the students because in the end, most of these taxpayers don't give a darn about them.
Lastly I offer you my apology for a previous insult I made against you. With the departure of Dr. Spitz from this board I am reminded that so few politicians serve to better their community. Several teachers I have spoken with have told me that despite your stance with the negotiations, they hold you in high esteem and respect your involvement in the school district. I hope you'll accept this rather long winded apology.
It is now time for me to stop typing and allow the irate masses to descend upon on me with their angry retort.

William O'Connor said...

LOL, ACS. Thanks for watching my back.

ABC123, I appreciate your words and welcome you back to the Blog. As long as everyone can keep it civil, they can play in the sandbox.

acs said...

People like abc and others want to make taxpayers seem emotional by using words like angry and haters. This is not an emotional issue it is a simple business 101 issue. Many in the let's throw as much money as we can crowd never have understood the economics.
Dr. Spitz a big supporter of NSD education quality(and a PhD in Econ by the way) understood the give and take of education needs and affordability. He was there for 8 years and he obviously had had enough of teacher and staff union greed.
There is only so much money available to the district. With limited funds from tax revenue and high cost labor we now run a deficit every year. The board has no ability even if they wanted to raise taxes above Act 1. So we are at a inflection point caused by prior board incompetence in giving greed driven union leaders everything including taxpayer's kitchen sinks.
Now ABC what do you advise the board do? Save $30M by using competitive private labor for non-core staff jobs or keep paying organized labor rates way outside the norm and cut education programs and close schools.
What abc, teacher and their ilk never ever understand is the real world metrics and how economics work. This is not an attack and I am not trying to antagonize but it is just a fact that if you have never run or worked in business and are in the academic, union or public employee bubble it is hard to understand reality. Taxpayers are not a bottomless well for the people that think teachers should get whatever they want and beleive me this in not emotion it is fact. NSD has the highest paid teachers and likely support staff and still performs in the middle of the pack of 501 PA SDs. Now it the time for the board to take the stand they are making. Maybe it will influence the other boards struggling with out of control unions.

abc123 said...

Go back and re read my comments ACS. Where did I say that the board should or should not outsource? I even acknowledged the public's right to expect concessions. Why is it that you seem to completely misrepresent what I've said? My entire purpose in writing was to encourage O'Connor to govern his actions for the good of the students. Is that such a wrong thing to say? I also questioned the public's support for education. Is it so outrageous to feel that way? You don't agree that most tax payers would vote against any educational expenditure? Remember that high school referendum? Should have been a no brainer.

JS said...

ACS, no offense, but you are constantly saying that this past election was a vocal mandate to change up the Board to ensure that they stand pat to union demands and wasteful spending.

How can that be if Spitz was one of those voted out, yet you tout him to be the very kind of person you would WANT on the Board for those reasons?

Teacher has a good point, that even if they take the current contract, there will be those out there who ask for even more concessions the next time. That's because they don't care about what kind of teachers you will get for that kind of compensation, they only care about their tax bill. Is it right? Not necessarily, but it is their perrogative.

To be honest I think most people are "irked" by the level of premiums paid (Neshaminy is the aberation at 0%, but most are still under 15%) and the fact that pension pay outs are guaranteed (at the tax payers expense). Since all School employees in the state get the same pension, we can't fault Neshaminy, that has to be at Harrisburg's feet. (Something EVERYONE should remember when your state representatives are up for re-election).

As for me sticking up for the Support Staff, it's because even though a good many would sign the current offer, they can't because the group as a whole won't go for it. Plus there are a good many leading the group that have no risk of losing their jobs, so they are only concerned about their benefits.

I really hedge on outsourcing Transportation because it is a MASSIVE cost to bring it back in house if we so desire.

With all due respect to what the Superintendant might say about First Student, talking with those that deal with them on a day to day basis for Council Rock gives a completely different story.

I think one thing to remember ACS is that you keep talking about Union greed, but often times the "Union" and the members are not the same, nor have the same goals. You can't seem to differentiate and to be blunt, seem hell bent on breaking them.

Levittowner said...

What we need..have always needed (IMHO) is parents who are educated on the issues. While everyone can have their own opinion about issues..those issues should be informed. Many time, I don't see that happening.
I know parents were getting in an uproar about bus schedules changed and dropped..yet they didn't seem to know how we got to the point of cuts and how bad the cuts could have been..or even how bad they will become if we don't get the unions under control.

I saw parents who couldn't understand how anyone wouldn't support the support workers via a petition. Many of those parents are now realizing what is truly going on. Those of us who didn't sign love our support workers too, but we don't want our programs for our children cut.

There are parents who don't seem to understand how we got to the point of the cuts and just had a knee jerk reaction. Many parents think that board members are paid (ha!)

Until all parents become active and educated, there *is* (again, IMHO) a real risk of cuts for the sake of cuts once we pass the immediate crisis.

The ones who want those cuts are active..they are vocal..they skew and warp facts as they get their message out there...and people listen to their fear mongering.
And they vote.

Newbie said...

You are so right Levittowner. When I speak to my friends about the district I am shocked at how little they know about what's going on. Then when I read comments from people like you, JS, ACS and others, I am shocked at how little I know.
Thank you everyone, including you William, for this blog. I may not agree with everything I read but the information has helped me to be better informed.

acs said...

JS, My statements are completely consistent. The election was a mandate for 2 reasons. 1. the winning candidates running were very vocal in support of keeping taxes low and standing up to the unions.the incumbents, excludig boyle, were not 2. Incumbents typically win like 90% of the time and there was no real reason for Spitz to lose so it indicates a mandate for change and a view that it was needed to stand up for taxpayers...Right or wrong. Taxes are a hot button issue this year
Remember most people don't pay that much attention to the fine print on school board elections.
Dr. Spitz was good director as I have said. However he may have been too late to come out publically against the unions on election day.
On the so called "union" vs rank and file I agree that the members may have differing views of the settlement but the CBA states clearly that NSD boards can only negotiate with a legitimate NFT Union leader NO ONE else. So for that reason they are one in the same. Younger teachers will need to break ranks visibly and elect a new president for that to change and I don't see it happening. Remember in a speech to the board after the protest the president said she wants to refer not to the union but to the teachers to show that they are personally commitment to the cause and solidarity.
Lastly I do believe unions have been a negative for School districts and need to be limited in power or eliminated. I think that is a view of the large majority of people in this country frankly.

KClarinet said...

ACS said:
"Lastly I do believe unions have been a negative for School districts and need to be limited in power or eliminated. I think that is a view of the large majority of people in this country frankly."

In general labor unions have grown up in the U.S. and elsewhere as a response - usually to poor pay and poor, sometimes inhuman, working conditions. Teachers were never subjected to conditions anyone would consider inhuman (although there was a time as recent as the last century when a teacher couldn't marry and a pregnant one could be fired summarily), but pay as recently as the early 1970s was low enough in Neshaminy that a teacher here couldn't solely on his or (more likely) her own salary afford to buy a home in the district, and administrators had carte blanche to be very arbitrary in their treatment of the instructional staff (and some took full advantage). Teachers felt themselves, whether justified or not, driven to organize in order to find some protection from what they obviously considered seriously high-handed and unfair treatment compounded by what everyone at the time agreed was low pay (no one wanted to pay taxes then, either).

I know - that's all in the past. It happened decades ago. Both the AFT and the NEA (which in the 1970s morphed from a professional forum much like the AMA to a collective bargaining agent rivaling the AFT) have since those days brought compensation levels to a far more respectable, to some of you exorbitantly generous, level and curbed the most egregious administrative abuses. But somewhere not very far below the surface is a fear in every teacher's mind that the continued existence of a strong bargaining representative is the only barrier to it's all collapsing. The fear is very strong that, if the unions were somehow eliminated as bargaining agents and robbed of their ability to intercede on teachers' behalf, it wouldn't take very many contract cycles before teachers would once again have no control over instructional conditions or processes and their compensation would once more revert to levels that are adequate only as supplemental income to that of a better-paid spouse. And this would happen precisely because "most people don't pay that much attention to the fine print on school board elections" and are only concerned about keeping their taxes as low as possible.

Bewail as you like the strength of today's school unions and the damage you feel they've done. Every union comes into existence because its members feel a need for protection from something, and nearly every clause in a CBA exists today because some perceived abuse in the past required it. That the abuses have been curbed does not prevent their return if the bargaining agent is taken out of the picture.

acs said...

KC, I am sure many found your history lessons useful and I do not disagree with most of it.
However times are now completely different for American workers and have been for several decades.
In the 70s-80s teachers needed to reach "on par salary and benefits. The ability to strike and use CB drove that. They have since reached par and much much more. With Taxpayer funded healthcare and retirement along with high salaries they are well above private sector worker PAR. The other 88% of Americans not in any union do not have everything teachers and public employees have still locked in obsolete CBAs. Therefore how do you continue to expect private workers i.e taxpayers to now pay full rate healthcare and retirement for their own families(they got this all free 30 years ago), and also pay for teachers to have those free benefits. Does this still really make sense to you?
Times have changed and unions now are on the wrong side of American workers, especially public unions. They had a role and have run their course in America as you see by millions of lost manufacturing jobs due to non competitive union labor. I know the pro union crowd would say, see more people in unions is the answer to this problem...LOL the American economy would have collapsed 20 years ago if that was true...but instead union membership went from 20% to 12% in that time and the economy continued to grow at a high rate.... most of the 12 % are public employees paid for with tax money.
Oh yes that reminds me, look at the support staff outsourcing bids for non union labor to understand market labor pricing :)

acs said...

William, Here is a timely article.

KClarinet said...

ACS said:
"Therefore how do you continue to expect private workers i.e taxpayers to now pay full rate healthcare and retirement for their own families(they got this all free 30 years ago), and also pay for teachers to have those free benefits. Does this still really make sense to you?"

I don't expect the taxpayers to pay for "teachers to have those free benefits..." Why do you attribute something to me that I've never said? My argument had to do with the continued importance of union protections, at least from the teachers' point of view, despite your assertion that unions "have been a negative for school districts and need to be limited in power or eliminated." I've never expressed sympathy for asking the district to continue paying 100% of the teachers' or support workers' healthcare premiums. I have complained from the time Mr. Webb declared the board's 15%-16%-17% demand to be non-negotiable that taking non-negotiable positions to the bargaining table is a recipe for failure if the aim is to negotiate a contract both sides can live with. I've never said 0% was the right solution. I think that it's unreasonable for the NFT to expect, if it does, to avoid having teachers pay any share of their health insurance premiums. But that's a separate issue from whether or not unions should be eliminated (one of your offered alternatives) from the schools.

srodos said...

I would like someone to explain this "mandate for change" that is being used to explain attacks upon the people who work for the Neshaminy School District.
At least 6 months prior to the election, Mr. Webb had stated that the existing contract was unworkable and that the then Board was united in this feeling. You have to remember one thing, the unions only asked for the moon, it was the school board at that time who gave away the moon and then threw in the sun and stars for good measure.This proves the old saying that it never hurts to ask.
I believe that the district will try to come within the state guideline for a tax increase. I do not feel that further cutting into education programs will be to anyone's advantage since the quality of the school district directly affects the market value of your home, and is the first or second question that must be answered to the satisfaction of a prospective buyer.
If both sides take a position that health care, retirement payout,etc. are non negotiable, the contract will never be settled. The only remaining question is the figures at which it will be settled. The obvious problem will occur with the support staff and the aides. If the Board, in its infinite wisdom decides to outsource, this should not be reflected in making a larger offer to the teachers union. As the"mandate for change" people will
soon come to realize, the closer you come to standing still, the further behind you fall in your relationship to where you want to be.

JS said...

There are only a few who seem to think there was a "mandate".

I just think there were casualties of a very bipartisan turn out this past election. An election that had very little to do with "mandating change" with the School Board. I guarantee that if all the incumbents were in the "R" column everyone would have been re-elected. What would it have been then? "Mandate for no change"?

I feel as this drags on there will be a major shake up. At some point those in the NFT ranks will realize how much money they truly are being cost (primarily those between 5-8 years experience, they have the largest step increases). I really feel you'll soon have internal NFT pressure to settle something.

I also feel that the Board should find some legal way for portions of the NESPA Union to sign the offer. Those who are part time with no benefits shouldn't risk losing their job because the full timers don't want to pay for medical. Especially when the spokesperson for the Support Staff is a Secretary (one of the least likely positions to be outsourced, so she has the most job security) who isn't concerned about her members losing their jobs.

I actually think that what ever contract is signed, that it is made sure to run out before the 2012 budget. That's when the most drastic pension loss tax increases will go into affect.

I've said it before, when those figures start to be thrown around the NFT will think of the current public opinion of them as a fond memory.

acs said...

The election was not a "mandate for change" it was a mandate for reinforcing the board's firm position against union's outlandish labor CBA and current demands. The candidates that ran on that platform all won. The people told Mr. Webb and board they are sick and tired of our taxes going up and up while we all lose pay, benefits, jobs etc, and they want him and the board to hold and stop the madness. Not realy that complicated.

Scott Brown's election was however a mandate for change.

acs said...

To clarify. My point is that the change happened as a result of the way candidates ran i.e. tough on holding taxes down, but the madate was a support of board. I think a lot people in 2009 woke up due to the recession and took the SB elections as a referendum on taxes. For those reason all incumbents were at risk. I think it is how hard candidates ran on the anti-tax platform that helped.

srodos said...

Taxes will go up to whatever the current limit is allowed by the state. The public will not and should not stand for the elimination of elementary school guidance counsellors, reading specialists and anything else that starts to directly impact the education of the 8500 students of the school district.

acs said...

Srodos, You are at the crux of the matter. However there are 2 things that people should not stand for:
1. " the elimination of elementary school guidance counsellors, reading specialists and anything else that starts to directly impact the education"
2. Continued high taxes and annual increases for what appears to be extremely overpaid union labor(NESPA and NFT) as Mr. Webb/Mr.Pastor pointed out in the BCCT Op-Eds yesterday and unfortunately inspite of this excess spending, limited accedemic progress particualrly at the HS level.
I am a full believer in number 1 above so that only leaves the board aggressively addressing number 2 with outsourcing and NFT contract concessions.