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Sacrifice is not for everyone
By Lee Chowaniec
Mar 8, 2011, 14:44
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An individual attending last night’s Lancaster Central School District’s (LCSD) Board of Education (BOE) budget work session meeting addressed the board to encourage it to increase the tax rate enough to keep the services “we really need.”

The individual commented: “I hear a lot about cutting and I know taxes are a sore subject and I know you have to come up with a budget that you think will be approved by the voters. However, I hope we are coming to a consensus to increase the tax rate enough where we are going to get the services that we really need. I know that if the average homeowner has their taxes increased they are going to think about DVR service, cable TV and perhaps the cell phone or a concert ticket; things like that, things that are far less important than education. I do understand there are people out there who have situations much worse than that.”

Having heard this individual make like comments in the past three things should be noted. He has children attending school in the district, he values education and he has the means to contribute more in taxes. This individuals sacrifice would be small in comparison to those who have lost jobs, lost health insurance coverage and are contributing more to skyrocketing premiums, have not received a salary increase in years, are poor and/or other.

The BOE is taking a hard look at the department budget proposals and will have to make a determination on what cuts are feasible. Much was cut from last year’s budget and it is no longer a case where things are left to be cut from the budget. It has come down to programs and people.

Sacrifice is not for everyone

Western New Yorkers pay the highest taxes in the country. Some property owners are so overburdened with taxes they are losing their homes or forced to sell and downsize. While we taxpayers are being asked to sacrifice more, I have to look at the recent Lancaster Central Teachers Association (LCTA) declination of the recently proposed contract offer by the district and ask, “Where’s the sacrifice?”

Faced again this year with a budget crisis that could result in a double-digit increase in tax levy and tax rate, the Lancaster Central School District (LCSD) met with the Lancaster Central Teachers Association (LCTA) recently and offered their latest contract negotiation proposal.

The LCTA contract expired in July of 2009. Negotiations have dragged on for near two years. Impasse was declared in 2010 and negotiations went to arbitration. The Fact-finder recommended the District pay a 1.25% in salary increase in addition to the NYS Triborough step salary increase and for teachers to contribute a 1% annual increase to health insurance. Teachers now contribute 8% and would be contributing 11% in the last year of the three-year contract.

The Fact-finder recommendation is just that, a recommendation and is not binding. Last week, the District approached LCTA with the following proposal:

• The District will agree with the terms of the Fact-finder recommendation if the LCTA accepts a four year contract and where this coming year (2011-12 school year) LCTA agrees to take a freeze.

• LCTA would receive a retro step (3.34%) and 1.25% additional salary increase for the 2009-10 school year and not have to contribute the additional 1% toward health insurance.

• LCTA would receive a retro step (3.40%) and 1.25% additional salary increase and contribute 1% more to health insurance for the 2010-11 school year.

• LCTA would take a pay freeze (step and additional increment) but contribute 1% more to health insurance for the 2011-12 school year.

• LCTA would receive the step (?) increase and the 1.25% additional salary increase and contribute 1% more to health insurance in the fourth year of the contract, 2012-13.

Savings from freeze

If the teachers union were to agree to the pay freeze the budget savings would prevent the layoff of tens of younger teachers and maintain several programs.

Are the teachers being asked to do something that is unreasonable, especially in this economic climate and where taxpayers are being asked to pay for benefits that increased by 15.25% this year?

In three years of the four year contract teachers will be getting 4.59% salary increases, and more. That will amount to an average yearly increase of 3.5%. The other two unions settled four year contracts for 3% salary increases and less. Teachers will contribute only 3% more in health insurance over the four year contract; 11% where it is now 8%.

LCTA website

On the LCTA website the following was posted:

Dear LCTA members,

Your full LCTA negotiating team met with the district team last night for 3 ½ hours in an effort to reach fair and reasonable terms for a successor to our expired Collective Bargaining Agreement. Unfortunately the district demanded a step and pay freeze in conjunction with a salary schedule that did not conform to Dr. Foster’s recommendations in the fact-finding report. The district attempted to dictate that your team impose the freezes through the negotiations process, not allowing you, the LCTA membership to vote on your own salary and step freeze. Ultimately the district offered a one year promise to retain all positions in exchange for losses to our bottom line. We cannot, in good conscience, recommend what was offered as fair or reasonable.

I have a difficult time understanding the language. It sounds like the District is asking for a two year freeze instead of one (length of negotiations).

It states that the membership was not given an opportunity to vote on the proposal, yet it is my understanding that the LCTA refused the proposal that evening giving clear indication that it was running the show. I have to wonder how many of the newer, younger teachers would have voted against the proposal considering some of their jobs may be on the line.

Here is a four year contract proposal that asks for a one year pay freeze with a promise no teachers will be cut, and the LCTA union says no thanks. Teachers will get a 14% salary increase over four years and contribute only 3% more toward their health insurance and taxpayers will have to pick up the more than 15.2% increase in benefits. Is this really for and/or about the kids?

Is everyone sharing in the pain? I think not.

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