Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mayor Blasts Cuomo for Lack of Mandate Relief!

Anyone concerned about the fiscal pressures facing schools, towns, cites in NYS, should read this article.

The Governor and many other NYS politicians have failed to exhibit commitment to the education of students. They refused to enact meaningful mandate relief to schools (and towns and cities) but were very willing to cut aid to schools and implement a tax cap. The public understands that NYS's budget deficit had to be addressed so nobody was surprised that cost cutting measures had to occur.

However, it is inexcusable that our politicians have not taken serious steps to provide mandate relief. Instead of doing so, they now accuse municipalities and school districts of failing to exert fiscal discipline. In other words [according to many politicians] school districts & municipalities got themselves into unwise contracts and now they have to deal with the consequences.

The problem with the contracts is not the salaries, it is the benefits which, at the PCSD, will exceed the salaries in 4 years. Decades ago, school districts offered health insurance to teachers because it was a cheap and attractive benefit. In the '90's the health insurance premiums were going up 20% per year. In the first decade of this century, the HI costs have skyrocketed even more significantly. Many superintendents and Boards of Education have tried to exert "fiscal discipline" but it has been to no avail. Why? The Triborough Amendment. This NYS law guarantees automatic raises and the continuance of out-of-control benefits, even when a contract expires. This law ensures that there is little to no incentive for unions to negotiate.

What could NYS politicians do to protect the education of students in hard-hit districts across the state like Potsdam Central?
1. Repeal the Triborough Amendment.
Public employee unions claim that, without the Triborough Amendment, their members would be threatened with the loss of important benefits once their contracts expire, and would thus have greater reason to stage illegal strikes. In reality, as explained in this paper, repeal of the Triborough Amendment would leave intact New York’s older “Triborough Doctrine.” This would prevent government employers from unilaterally altering employee benefits that must be collectively bargained under state law—including salaries, hours and health insurance.
(This is something few politicians seem to know or want to discuss.)

2. Limit the amount an employer has to contribute to HI premiums.

3. Give school districts real pension reform - not accounting gimmicks like the Governor's proposed pension smoothing plan, which many predict will backfire.

What can superintendents and Boards of Education do?
1. Refuse to agree to contracts that contain unsustainable benefit costs.
2. Lobby for real pension relief.

The PCSD has cut 15% of its teachers. Canton Central has cut 20%. By contrast, about 34% of NYS school districts have not had to lay off any teachers. Most students (K-12) cannot vote, but we can. Call your politicians and let them know what you think.

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