July 29, 2014

Elyria
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Reinstatement of step increases for Elyria teachers could sink finances

ELYRIA — A roll of the dice by school officials in 2011 could prove costly for the district as it starts contract negotiations with the Elyria Education Association.

The teachers’ employment agreement approved then ends this month. Historically, both sides are mum about negotiations, only announcing a finalized deal. It makes speculating on how any new contract will affect the district’s bottom line difficult.

However, a memorandum of understanding signed by both sides in the spring of 2011 lays out at least one issue that will have to be addressed in contract talks — the longevity pay system known as “step increases.”

The steps were frozen, not eliminated, in 2011 and the district was hailed for the accomplishment.

“In the event that salary steps based on longevity are reinstated by Ohio law and following the expiration of this agreement between the Board of Education and the Elyria Education Association, employees would resume step increases at the next step on the salary schedule,” the signed memo said.

Superintendent Paul Rigda said the union could push to explore that caveat in an effort to get back the steps. A state law repealed in 2011 is no longer a factor preventing such an attempt.

“That could be problematic,” he said. “But that was a gamble the negotiating team decided to take. We wanted to settle, and no one wanted a disruption in school.”

Mark Smith, president of the Elyria Education Association, did not return a call for comment.

The five-year forecast

Just because school officials are not talking about contract negotiations publicly does not mean they are not thinking about how the outcome will affect the district.

Earlier this month, Ernie Strawser, a consultant with Public Finance Resources Inc., laid out the next five years of budgets for Elyria Schools. Expenses soon will outpace district income, he said.

This year, the district’s ending balance will be $8.4 million, and next year it jumps to $9.5 million, Strawser projected. But 2016 will start a slow trend of the district spending slightly more money each month than it brings in as revenue. By 2018, the cash balance will be $5.7 million, with the district spending $2.5 million over projected revenue, he projected.

“Those projections had built into them a 1.9 percent increase each year for salaries,” said Katie Henes, the district’s assistant treasurer. “There are no steps in that scenario because the steps are so great that they would cause us to go into the red before 2018.”

Rigda said the district plans to go into 2018 in the black and will do whatever is necessary to achieve that.

“I know there is the sentiment with public employees that if you have money, that means it’s for us to pay them,” Rigda said. “However, the public is the least interested in that mindset. They want to know if we’re taking care of buildings, buying supplies for students and putting in the proper programs for student growth.”

So, if the district does bring back steps, how will it cope without the revenue to cover the expense?

Rigda said the district would have to cut expenses. The budget would have a $2.7 million deficit by 2017 with the reintroduction of step increases.

“If we were held to that statement today, that would mean major staff reductions including layoffs,” Rigda said referencing the 2011 memo.

For the first time in years, Henes said the five-year forecast also includes about $1.5 million a year for building maintenance — about $7 million or 3 percent of the total years’ budgets.

“When you look at all of our buildings, that is not a lot of money, especially when you take into account the cost for some of the things we need to start doing,” she said. “A new roof can run anywhere between $300,000 and $500,000. Paving a parking lot is a six-figure cost.”

The only school with a dedicated maintenance fund is Elyria High School, and although the district can use some of that money on other buildings, it generates only about $400,000 a year.

S.B. 5 and step increases

To understand the gamble the district decided to take, it is best to look back to 2011.

Ohio Senate Bill 5 would have limited collective bargaining for public employees across the state, and as a result a well-organized opposition campaign was waged by firefighters, police officers and teachers.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen with Senate Bill 5 so we had to make the best decision for the district at that time. Our financial picture could not support the steps back then,” Rigda said.

The voter referendum known then as Issue 2 subsequently repealed that bill.

But the effects linger. Elyria was not the only district to remove or freeze salary steps in the wake of such a huge political fight.

In 2011, Cuyahoga Falls Schools reached an agreement with teachers to freeze the steps. Two years later, the steps did not come back. However, district officials and teachers did come to an agreement that included a 2 percent raise over two years.

Step increases, which escalate based on longevity, have long fallen out of favor with voters, who want school districts and other government entities to pay employees fairly in a way that is sustainable and doesn’t require more tax levies to achieve.

When the step ladder is frozen and not eliminated — as was the case with the most recent negotiated agreement for teachers in Lorain — the result can be disastrous on a district’s budget.

A 2011 memorandum of understanding signed by the Lorain Education Association and the school district halted the practice for two years. By 2013, the district had to make good on the postponed payments. The result was some teachers received a 16 percent increase given out incrementally over 16 months.

The bottom-line cost to the district was $639,000 this year, nearly $1.6 million in 2015 and $1.9 million in 2016. The district’s five-year forecast shows a deficit predicted for 2015 and each year afterward out to 2018, when it balloons to $34 million.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

  • Jason Pallardy

    I can see the school levy for an increase in taxes for us property owners being drafted already…

    • SniperFire

      It is all ‘for our kids’, you know!

      • duckmonkeyman

        Just like Happy Meals and iPods. We know corporations and politicians care more for kids and learning than teachers, right?

        • Pablo Jones

          Politicians would prefer uneducated people because it is easier for them to spread their BS.

          Corporations however do value educated employees. The more educated their employees are the less they have to spend training them.

        • SniperFire

          Not bright, but then again you seem to be a low-information type.

  • Mark B

    Didn’t take the leaches long after the announcement the schools had some money in the bank .

    • duckmonkeyman

      It is spelled “leeches”.

  • Pablo Jones

    Amazing, I just mentioned this on the last article. Now I didn’t go through their last contract with a fine tooth comb but I believe there are step increases that teachers receive every year, but there is also a separate longevity pay. After 10 years they receive a 2% increase and an additional 2% gets tacked on every 5 years up to a total of 12%.

    I really wish the school district would use their website to actually post information about the district. How many students are enrolled, how many teachers, revenue source breakdown, and expense breakdown (building loans/bonds, maintenance, supplies, administration wages, teacher wages, compensation, pension contributions, healthcare, etc.) Then we can see where the money is really going.

    Even with a 2% wage increase each year that will increase the schools wages and compensation cost nearly $500,000 each year. But does the quality of that education increase by a comparable amount? Is the quality of the education worth over $5 million dollars more today than it was 10 years ago or is it roughly the same?

    • duckmonkeyman

      How do you define “quality of education”?

      • disqus_o40xovCXEm

        duckmonkeyman,

        Do you have any positive ideas to add to this thread?

        Or any ideas at all……?

        Or is your purpose in life to just troll and be a spelling cop or demand proof of argument?

        Get a life.

      • Pablo Jones

        I define the “quality of education” as the knowledge that is passed from the teacher to the students. And I measure the “quality of education” based on how those students, within the context of their abilities, are able to express that knowledge of the subjects they learned and function in society.

        How do you define it and measure it?

  • SniperFire

    Give them a 2% raise and put them all on Obamacare. Problem solved.

    • golfingirl

      They will never go on Obamacare, even though their union supported the architect of the program.

      It is fine for everyone else, but not their membership.

      Hypocrites!

      • SniperFire

        I’m thinking that municipalities and such should begin to just opt out of providing healthcare and just pay the fine.

      • Pablo Jones

        We have finally found the groups that President Obama was talking about. If they like their healthcare they can keep it. Well who wouldn’t like only paying 12.5% of the healthcare premium, with a cap on how much it can be.

      • FoodForThought63

        I think you’re confused about Obamacare. It basically says you need to have insurance. So, if you have insurance with your employer, you are ok. You don’t need to “go on Obamacare” if you already have insurance.

        • kiddingme

          quit with those facts – they’re not welcome here! please keep your comments to bitterness, ignorance, and stupidity.

        • SniperFire

          ‘So, if you have insurance with your employer, you are ok.’

          So if I like my insurance, I can keep it?

          • FoodForThought63

            Did you get to keep it? Somehow I am betting you’re on Medicare, which would make you kind of a hypocrite don’t you think?

        • Brian Bowman

          Unless you have really good insurance then you are penalized.

        • golfingirl

          Not confused at all.

          My point is if Obamacare saves the average family $2500 per year, as we were told, then why not make the teachers sign up for it?

          Teachers are public servants, are they not? Their income and benefits comes from the taxpayers, they should do the right thing and enroll in the ACA.

          Or is it not as wonderful as we were promised?

  • GreatRedeemer

    It is high time that sound fiscal policy be the deciding factor in these matters. Look at what happened in Strongsville last time around, the discussion went from a negotiation to a strike and then the national unions moved it to a whole new level. The kids that everyone always says its about were not part of the discussion.

  • Sis Delish

    Here’s a balanced proposal:

    For the Cadillac Non-Obamacare Health Plans to remain at current funding levels by the taxpayers, take all sick-days away. If they have the greatest HealthCare at the lowest cost to themselves, they shouldn’t find the need to miss any days due to illnesses.

    Step Increases? How ’bout paying based on Number of Students actually taught. Attendance records would be the multiplier. Seems an argument frequently made is the teacher/student ratios. School funding is based on student populations… if 10% are truant, where do Teacher’s get off getting paid as if they are teaching 100% of them?

    • duckmonkeyman

      Some teachers team teach. Other teachers might teach smaller gifted or learning disabled classes. Truancy starts at home. You would penalize the teachers who take on the most challenging students. Gym teachers could say they want a class of 100 kids and let them run around the gym, while a calculus teacher might have a time intensive class of 15 kids.

      Any other ideas?

      • Sis Delish

        if 15 Students = 100% and only 12 show up regularly, get paid for teaching 12.

        Gym isn’t a Class, its older recess.

      • anyMo

        Truancy does NOT start at home. Most parents do all they can to teach their children right from wrong and instill good morals. Yes, there are irresponsible parents out there. But that’s not the case with all troubled kids. Once they get to a certain age, peer pressure takes over. The school is responsible for the whereabouts and well being of the children during school hours.They MUST take responsibility for what kids are doing while in their care.

      • Pablo Jones

        I had over 100 students in my calculus class in college.

    • Mark B

      If that was the case every student would be straight A’s , you could skip the entire class and still pass with a A+

  • Pablo Jones

    So many potentially good teachers leave teaching because they make very little money in the beginning and bad teachers stay because they know they can’t make as much money in any other job.

    How about they increase the starting wage of new teachers or ramp it up quicker and then slow down the increases in the later years.

    One of the things we often hear is that teachers will leave if we don’t pay them more. That is a joke. If they leave the district they will have to start out at a lower pay of someone with only 5-10 years of experience.

    Another argument would be if you don’t pay more in the long run teachers won’t apply. Well if you pay more up front they will apply because you will be paying more than they can make else where. And as they put their time in it won’t be worth it to them to leave..

    The whole pay structure needs to change, more up front less in the end.

    • FoodForThought63

      Agreed-

    • duckmonkeyman

      Are there many professions that penalize experience and growth?

      Do you think turnover is a good idea for organizations? Most teachers already leave within 5 years. Is that your goal?

      • Pablo Jones

        Well I disagree with you saying they are being penalized for their experience. It is more of an upper limit on their earning potential. This happens in almost every profession. You can be the most experience fast food worker, but you will only make so much money. Even as an engineer you will be limited on your earning potential depending on your career choices.

        Some jobs have a slow ramp up to their max earning potential others get there right a way. Doctors starting wages, while high, are a fraction of what they will earn as they gain experience and specialize. Pharmacists start off at the peak, they will get cost of living increases but the buying power of their wages will be flat their entire career.

        There is turn over with nearly every job. The average person changes jobs every 8 years or so. For teachers they do change jobs often in the beginning of their career. At first they are trying to get their foot in the door and start working, many start out as substitute teachers. Once they have a job they start looking for their desired school district. But what is the turn over for teachers once they have 10 years of teaching in a district? Very little because it will be a step back for them to go to any other district. And for them to leave the state is almost unheard of because of their pensions.

  • disqus_o40xovCXEm

    The School Board sold this latest renewal as NOT A TAX INCREASE.

    They touted the fact that their employees have pulled in their belts and sacrificed.

    Sound familiar?

    It’s the same old tactic that the city public employees are using.

    We havn’t had a pay increase in FOREVER.

    Then, once the money spigot is turned back on again, RETROACTIVE INCREASES are soon negotiated.

    These people must believe, understandably, that the voters are very….stupid.

    • SniperFire

      ‘These people must believe, understandably, that the voters are very….stupid.’

      It is a negative spiral. Anybody bright enough to move out does so, and you have nothing but ignorant losers (democrats) and when it comes to property tax issues, renters who couldn’t care less about voting ‘yes’ to every property tax issue since they are voting themselves other people’s money. Then your city collapses a la Cleveland and Detroit.

  • William Suggs

    Hey SIs Delish, GolfinGal & SniperFire. Either crawl out from the rock you live under – or your parent’s basment – whichever one it is, and take a walk in the sunshine, or talk to another breathing human being instead of posting your non-stop negative bull. It’s ok to have opinions, and it’s ok to not have all the facts, but please don’t express your opinions as fact when they’re not.
    Here’s another idea. How about actually posting you name instead of hiding behind your anonymous ridiculous “avatar” names, and being such internet tough guys? Don’t have the nerve for that huh? I dare you. I also dare you to spend a day, or a week working in any school. Not sure when educators became the enemy, but it’s wrong to think that. just plain wrong. BTW. I know you’ll read this because you have no life, but don’t bother responding as I don’t read any of the crap you put on here, but like clockwork I know you’ll always post something.

    • SniperFire

      Butthurt much? LOL

    • Mark B

      Anyone who uses their true name anywhere on the internet is a FOOL

    • Oneday67

      “It’s ok to have opinions, and it’s ok to not have all the facts, but please don’t express your opinions as fact when they’re not.”

      So is that opinion or fact?

    • Sis Delish

      Today, I took a Walk, after rocking out in my basement listening room. Got a little Sun, spoke to more than a few of them human beings. I have not posted non-stop negative bull, and, believe it or not, I Post my Real Name but constantly have to revise my Avatar because folks like you steal my Online Identity on a regular basis, posting nonsense for which they are deleted by the blog administrator. As far as spending any time working in any school, no thanks, they can’t afford me. Educators belong to a Union or Association both of which are the real enemy, as you so say, but all members of a Teacher’s Union are Teachers, so what’s a fed up taxpayer to do?

      And, oh yes, you will read this, and that will put you in the Liar’s Column along with all the prerequisites associated therein, Mr Suggs.

  • Brian Bowman

    Once again ask the workforce to take pay freezes but the school board and school administration get raises and bonuses. Most teachers put in a lot more hours than you think.

    • Pablo Jones

      How many hours do they put in? Have the teachers not received a 2% pay raise each year?

      • Brian Bowman

        A good teacher will put in an extra 1-3 hours a day. It’s impossible to get a classes work
        prepared and graded during school hours alone. Especially the upper grades.

        • Mark B

          BS

        • Pablo Jones

          Ok 6-6.5 hours of the school day and 1-3 hours extra. So they work between 7-9.5 hours a day. The average is 8.25 hours a day. That is about the average working day and most salaried professional people put in more than the standard 40 hour week.

          8.25 * 200 days a year equals 1650 hours a year. Compared to the 2000 hours of a 40 hour week 50 week job.

          That doesn’t really make the case for putting in more hours.

        • SniperFire

          double BS.

          A teacher contract is about 180 days – or less than half a year.

    • SniperFire

      In the public sector, pay should be commensurate with getting the job done. We could get the job done for about half of what it now costs.

  • Pablo Jones

    Does anyone know what the starting teacher salary was 30 years ago? Based on some numbers I’m going to guess it was around $10,000. Those teachers after 30 years are making $60-70,000. That is a 700% increase in pay or about a 6.5% pay increase each year and inflation averaged less than 3%.

    • kiddingme

      i can’t tell if you’re serious. if you are, your comment may be one of the dumbest things i’ve read here, and that’s saying A LOT. $10k in 1984 would be $22,817.32 in today’s money, a cumulative inflation rate of 128.2%. you dolt.

      • Pablo Jones

        No you are the idiot. A teacher with 30 years is now earning between 60,000-70,000 in some cases even more. So to say this so you will understand. A teacher starts working in 1984 at 10,000. After 30 years of work they are making $70,000. That averages out to about 6.5% increase each year. Try it 10000 * 1.065 30 times. The inflation rate has been less than 3% each year. So I’ll say it slow for you. 10,000 to 70,000 is a 700% overall increase.

        • Brian Bowman

          The teachers you are talking about got raises based on continuing education. Masters degree/s plus hours. Spend 50+ thousand on a B.S then thousands more on masters and extra hours. Not just annual pay increases. Nothing like going to school only for a bunch of people to say teacher make to much. Lots of good people are leaving the education field only to be replaced by lesser qualified individuals. Also the work day is 7.5 hours not 6-6.5. Then add 1-3 hours plus there are plenty of teachers that stay after school. It’s a thankless job just like firefighters, policemen and everybody wants to cut their pay. Try cutting the pay of the board of education.

          • SniperFire

            Lots of people get degrees with no guarantee of payback. Nobody asks teachers to get a Masters degree. They do it because they KNOW they will be overpaid once they get it, and the Unions force districts to overpay for them once they achieve it.

            ANd please stop whining about your 8 hour day when you only work 180 of them in a year. It is still a part time job. You have no clue.

          • Brian Bowman

            Try being a teacher and then talk. You’re a moron to think that continuing you’re education is so you’ll be overpaid.

          • SniperFire

            You know I am right which is why you recoil and have no rebuttal. LOL

          • Brian Bowman

            I think only people who hide their real names like talking junk on the internet.

          • SniperFire

            You know I am right and you haven’t the slightest rebuttal.
            Decades of research proves teachers with masters degrees are no more effective than those without.

            The good news is, the movement is away from overpaying teachers in this manner.

          • Mark B

            Who checked your ID when you signed up ?

          • SniperFire

            He has decided to hide his real name now. LOL

          • Pablo Jones

            Well for a person going to school in 1980 they were hardly paying $50,000. Probably closer to $12,000, if that. Lots of people go to school and get degrees, that doesn’t mean they should automatically get paid more every year.

            Tell me does the quality of a teacher improve between the year before they get their masters and the year after? No. It does nothing to improve the education.

            I live across from a school, I see when the teachers arrive and leave, they are not there for 7.5 hours. Again they make above the median household income, for 9 months of work. I hardly call that a thankless job. What I am saying is they should not automatically get paid more every year, especially when the quality of their education they provide doesn’t increase every year.

            And they get reimbursed for their education by the school.

          • Brian Bowman

            Teachers do not get reimbursed for their education.

          • Pablo Jones

            Read the Elyria teachers contract.

          • luvmytoaster

            Wow, I’d like to work 7.5 hours per day – an additional hour here or there – and make $50-70,000 for 6 or 7 months!

            Face it, they have it made!

        • Brian Bowman

          Starting pay in 1984 was 22k. In today’s money would be equivalent to 50k. So they get a 20,000 dollar pay increase over 30 years or about 700 dollars a years. Minus the fact they paid thousands of dollars to continue their education.

          • Pablo Jones

            The average teachers salary in 1984 was $22,000. By definition of an average they can’t start at $22,000 and have $22,000 still be the average unless every teacher only made $22,000.

            http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_075.asp

            Again lots of professions have to continue their education and pay for it teachers aren’t special for doing it. And if you bother to read the Elyria teachers contract it spells out how much they are reimbursed for continuing education. Try reading it before you embarrass yourself further.

  • Jason Pallardy

    The point of this discussion should be school funding. To put it and everything associated with it on the backs of property owners isn’t right. Add to that the parents like myself who send their children to private schools who are still stuck with the bill for the public schools and their inflated plans and costs. Someone commented on a post awhile back asking what is an extra $20 a month? Well, it’s my $20 a month and I don’t want someone else deciding for me how to spend it. I spend thousands a year on my children’s education not to mention an extra $1500 a year in my property taxes that go directly towards public school education. So I guess I pay more than my fair share. If anything I deserve a rebate from the government for the extra amount I pay seeing as since I pay more than others! Let’s start that discussion!

    • SniperFire

      The renters will come around to tell you that you are rasis.

    • luvmytoaster

      I agree that the current funding of our public schools is severely outdated but sending your children to a private school was your choice.

  • bigmacky

    its not about the money – no no – its about giving the children the best possible education possible – btw – VOTE YES on issue – 99 “gimmie my money”

  • grandparent4

    I would like to see the Chronicle publish the kind of perks the Administration gets and see if it compares to the step raises the teachers get? Do they ever freeze their perks? Rumor is that adminstrators get a bonus if their school does well on mandated test scores? What does the District pick up so far as retirements for administrators and other benefits compared to the teachers and classified staff’s pickups? There is a reason a number of “adminstrators” left Clearview school district? I would guess money and “perks.” I guess if administration is going to throw the teachers under the bus with the threats of step raises and how it is going to sink the district’s finances then let’s expose everything fairly with the whole truth going to the taxpayers and let them decide.

    • Pablo Jones

      Absolutely the contracts for the Admin should be reviewed as well. But in the grand scheme of things what the Administration is paid is a very small percentage of a schools wage and compensation budget. Even if they are paid 0 it wouldn’t fix the budget.

      • grandparent4

        I don’t see how you think it is small when you consider how many administrators at the admin building as well as in the schools and how there are mulitple administrators that have been added over the years that are not necessarily needed and could be done with a lot less staffing seeing as the students and amount of schools are much less.

        • Pablo Jones

          So for you I pulled the numbers.
          Total wage compensation Over (705) $39,000,000
          School District admin (85) $4,655,000 12% of total
          Principals (27) $2,346,000 6% of total
          Teaching positions (483) $27,325,000 70% of total

          Average teacher Salary $57,000.
          The lowest salary is $26,000
          The highest $79,000

          Healthcare costs roughly $900 a month $5.2 million or more by now.
          Pension contribution from district 14% $3.82 million

          Teacher compensation (wages, healthcare, pension) roughly $76,000.

          That means teachers earn more than 44-79% of all people working in the country.

          Household income for Elyria is $39,000.

          Teachers make 46% more on average than the people ;paying the taxes.

          For those that say they are underpaid, at what level will they be fairly paid? When they are makeing 75 or 100% more than the people paying taxes? Or When they are in the top 10% of earners?

  • Sis Delish

    California ruling to end Teacher Tenure!

    Now if that isn’t a reason for Fireworks, I don’t know what is!

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/10/justice/california-teacher-tenure-lawsuit/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

  • grandparent4

    You have to wonder how he is so knowledgeable about all this facts and numbers…..

  • luvmytoaster

    Ummm, probably public information on the web…….

  • grandparent4

    You know I hear that all the time and were even given the “websites” to find that info but when I looked I did not find those same numbers which leads me to believe that they may be getting facts somewhere else or from someone else…just saying.