3 percent separates school board and teachers’ union

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board and the teachers’ union are about three percentage points away from each other in their contract talks. That’s the primary take-away from a March 13 press briefing.

School Board Directors Gregg Lindner and Keith Knauss and Superintendent John Sanville conducted the briefing. Director Vic Dupuis is also on the negotiating team, but he was out of town.

According to the presentation, the union, the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association, wants an annual increase in total compensation — salary, retirement and benefits — of 5.01 percent, while the board’s current offer is 2.08 percent.

“This is the single-most substantial budget issue,” Lindner said.

The board is developing its 2015-2016 budget of almost $80 million. Lindner said the teachers’ compensation package portion represents just less than $34 million.

Based on that $34 million figure, a 5.01 percent increase translates to an extra $1.75 million being spent per year, while a 2.08 percent increase adds an extra $700,000 per year.

“The board feels the teachers should be fairly compensated … At the same time, we have to balance their needs with the limitations on taxpayers,” Lindner said. “It’s our goal to bring everyone together and find common ground.”

He continued, saying there are three guiding principles to the negotiations: the need to offer fair compensation, the need to have the contract sustainable over its three-year period, and the need to keep within the state-mandated tax increase limit.

This year’s ceiling, known as the Act I limit, is 1.9 percent, though there are dollar amount exceptions for special education costs and for retirement contributions.

Lindner said sustainability means there should be no cuts in programs or increases to class size.

If no agreement were reached, the status quo — meaning no change in pay — would be maintained. However, Lindner added that there would still be increased costs in pension and benefit expenses. That increase this year would be 1.85 percent of total employment costs.

“With an Act I limit on tax increases of 1.9 percent this year, we either need to limit these benefit expense increases or limit wage increases,” he said. “We cannot afford both a wage increase and maintain current benefits.”

Under the teachers’ proposal of a 5.01 percent increase, the district risks teacher layoffs, higher local taxes, program cuts and larger class sizes. Lindner also said it would be difficult to explain to taxpayers why the teachers are getting larger increases than the average person.

“We’re living in a 2 percent world,” Knauss said.

The Employment Cost Index put out by the Department of Labor that, Knauss said, shows the average employee in the Philadelphia area gets a 2 percent increase in salaries and benefits. He said that same 2 percent is reflected in the cost-of-living increase for combined Social Security and Medicare payments.

The 800-pound gorilla in all state teacher negotiations is the contribution to the state’s Public School Employees Retirement System, or PSERS.

Knauss said the district needs to pay a competitive wage, but the PSERS’ contribution and benefits limit what can be done with those salaries.

“[Teachers] haven’t gotten much in the salary section because benefits keep going up … If we could reduce PSERS, that money could go to the salary section,” Knauss said.

The last salary increase, a 3 percent hike, came at the beginning of the current school year, according to Knauss.

Sanville interjected that this year’s PSERS’ contribution was $2.7 million, but it would be $4.3 million for the 2017-2018 school year under the union’s proposal.

The presentation the board gave to the press is available on line at https://docs.google.com/a/chaddsfordlive.com/folderview?pli=1&id=0B82UgPjD25OaMGl3Um02Wk5nbG8&tid=0B82UgPjD25OaUFg3dzJQZ3g3Um8#

Teachers were given the presentation earlier in the week. The current contract expires at the end of June.

The contract status is expected to be an agenda item for the March 16 board meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Chadds Ford Elementary School.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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One Response to “3 percent separates school board and teachers’ union”

  1. Barbara Wells says:

    Well, Sanville got a 10 percent increase in 2014 and Batchelor just received an 8 percent increase on a 5 year contract.

    That just adds insult to injury to the teachers…………….the backbone of the education system.

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