kitchen table math, the sequel: budget season

Monday, March 11, 2013

budget season

Sorry to be missing in action -- budget season is upon us, and I've been writing posts for the Irvington Parents Forum.

The Forum has also had an interesting discussion of kids learning Mandarin Chinese, including an email from a mother who is living in China so her daughter can learn the language. I'll get links posted as soon as I've read everything.

For New Yorkers and anyone else who is interested in school funding:

Per pupil spending $28,517


Why the tax cap passed in New York state
Pension contribution rises 37% for 2013-2014
New York State School Board Association opposes Triborough Amendment


English Language Arts scores 

The insanity in my state is that a school district can have nearly $30K per pupil funding and still be laying off teachers, cutting programs, laying off more teachers, threatening to cut French, Latin, and Greek, threatening to cut French, Latin, and Greek again, etc., etc., on and on.

Each and every year since the crash, we have a budget crisis: the same crisis, over and over again. It's like Groundhog Day, only not fun.

The reason we have a budget crisis each year without fail is that the budget is capped, but the contracts are not. The cap is 2%, but our contract calls for roughly 4% annual increase in compensation, and 4 is not 2. Plus pension payments will rise by 37% next year, and tax certs are through the roof (nearly $2 million this year, assuming I'm reading the Powerpoint correctly). Apparently tax certs always will be through the roof, forever. So we have a crisis.

Surreally, the solution is simple, but impossible.

All of our problems would be over if the union simply agreed to index raises to inflation. But that option is unthinkable.

The 4-is-not-2 dilemma is unthinkable even as a description of the problem. Instead of "labor costs are too high," the problem is understood to be Cost Escalation Beyond Board's Control.

Pension contributions! Health insurance! Special ed! Mandates!

True enough, all these things are expensive, but "mandates" obscures the fact that the only mandate that matters, and the source of our woe, is the Triborough Amendment. And that is here to stay.

So we are living in the land of zero-sum, where 4% raises for some mean lay-offs for others.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand how per pupil costs can very so wildly depending on what state it is. In the local district (in WA), they get something like $6000 per pupil (not special ed) and I think that takes into account all the levies and other funding that comes in, not just what the state provides. I mean, I get that the cost of living varies, but really?

Anonymous said...

Cost of living is probably higher out here in California, but our schools only get peanuts to educate with. According to

Interesting Facts about Santa_Cruz, California

As of 2012, Santa Cruz's population is 59,946 people. Since 2000, it has had a population growth of 11.99 percent.

The median home cost in Santa Cruz is $513,000. Home appreciation the last year has been 2.84 percent.

Compared to the rest of the country, Santa Cruz's cost of living is 76.40% Higher than the U.S. average.

Santa Cruz public schools spend $6,148 per student. The average school expenditure in the U.S. is $5,691. There are about 20.2 students per teacher in Santa Cruz.

The unemployment rate in Santa Cruz is 10.60 percent(U.S. avg. is 8.60%). Recent job growth is Positive. Santa Cruz jobs have Increased by 3.22 percent.

lgm said...

Does your 4% increase include only the grid change, or does it also include the step/lane changes & the benefit increases?

lgm said...

What is the law when the contract expires and a new contract hasn't been agreed on?
Aside from the 'mandates!' cry ,we are hearing 'tell your representatives to increase the tax on the rich' and 'we have a contract that must be honored'. Usually when that is being spoken the loudest, the administrator's union is giving themselves a heftier raise than the previous contract.

lgm said...

Sorry, lost some of that.

What is the law when the contract expires and a new contract hasn't been agreed on? Per Triborough, the old contract stays in effect. IRL, the negotiations stall for years if it's going to involve concessions or a compensation increase that is slightly less than the previous compensation increase.

The 'tax the wealthy' is because the union leaders have looked at the area's earnings and determined that more can be paid. They just can't get it under the existing tax structure, so they're squeezing everyone. Prince John and his minions aren't looking out for the health of the Kingdom; they're after the gold.

Anonymous said...

Cost per pupil depends a lot on what the district chooses to count as a cost. Here in LA, the school district claims about $9500 per year, but they include only the operating budget in the disclosure. If you count what the district spends building new schools, pension costs, district administrative costs and other legacy costs for retired employees it is well over 25K per year. LAUSD is actually spending per pupil what elite private schools cost.

Anonymous said...

Wow, did the 4% raises happen in 2009-2010 when even the six-figure salaries of some software company employees were frozen?

Lgm said...

Yes, anon. It also happened during mass layoffs from the local big factory, the closing of the local small factory, the reduction in OT, and the uncompensated furloughs that many experienced. Some folks that remained employed shared at the annual budget meetings the amount of health insurance increases they rec'd..the district here did not pass those costs on to their employees until 2010 & then gave them a boost in salary to make up for the increased health care premiums.