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September 27, 2006

Comments

Joanne

While firing Johnson might be emotionally satisfying to some (who were not happy with many of the program changes Johnson made in the past few years) it would not solve the current budget crisis. In fact, an additional 5-10 teachers would have to be fired. (See discussion of severance pay under thread, A Teaching Moment). In addition, the same board who just renewed Johnson's contract would be the same board who hires his replacement.
So my vote is to not fire Johnson, work with him and the board to resolve the current crisis in the best possible manner with the least possible harm. After the budget issue is resolved this week, persons who don't care for Johnson or the board's leadership should determine how much longer their contract or terms are and then look for persons who might replace them in the future.

Rich Grogan

And after your dragon eats your second child, what will you do then?

Joanne

I think the tax rebates have stopped, Rich. It's as simple as that. There is money coming in; there will be more next year than this year. This is a temporary crisis caused by 9-11 and commercial property tax rebates. The only thing that could cause this to be a recurring crisis is if the SMUHSD and the County don't fix their communication problems. In fact, since it looks like the County gave bad advice, why isn't anyone hounding them for the 3.5 million? They should pay for their bad advice. They have a HUGE budget and, unlike our volunteer SMUHSD board of trustees, the County Supervisors are paid "real" money -- salaries of $150,000!! Aren't they managing the County Assessor's office?

Joanne

Don't Basic Aid districts get their monies from the property taxes paid in their district? If so, comparing us to Sequoia is comparing apples to oranges...Sequoia probably did not have the large string of hotel tax rebates that the mid-Peninsula did. We're still suffering from the downturn in the hotel business caused by 9-11.

steve

Actually it was Oracle and a few big corporations who hurt us the most as well as United. Joanne, today two board members spoke to the faculty at BHS and said what you just did. That the tax rebates have stopped. They said they believed that two years ago and at the end of last year and they were misled to believe this. I hope they don't depend on information next year, just as I hope they wait for the info before they negotiate with the teachers

Joanne

Me too! (Hope that they wait for the correct income info before they negotiate with teachers) The "overpayment" last year was 2.7 million and the total deficit was 2.3; so if the employees of the SMUHSD had been paid correctly the SMUHSD would have ended 400,000 in the black. Deciding the raises AFTER the income has been determined is a no brainer change for this next contract.

ASE

Personally, I wouldn't trust the "dragon" to make no brainer decisions. This only makes me wish more and more that I could vote. First I would attempt to recall the board, then, if successful, I would vote in board members whose decisions I could trust. Oh, and Joanne, would you mind citing your stats from here on out? In past posts your numbers and facts have been corrected and refuted, and I think it would not only spare confusion and the spread of false information, it might save you some embarrassment too.

Joanne

Elizabeth McManus (sp?), Finance Person for the SMUHSD.

KRN

Joanne,

The math is fuzzy. Words like "overpayment" are part of Sam Johnson's Scapegoat. The contract has a payment formula. The teachers are paid according to this formula. (% of new tax) The "overpayments" of one year are countered by "underpayments" in the next year to bring the balance to zero. The SMUHSD and its teachers are even. We have not been overpaid.

At the bargaining table, the district is willing to accept a 0% raise for teachers. Why are they willing to accept this if teachers really owe them a 3% rollback? It doesn't make sense.

The budget numbers don't make sense unless they are taken in the context of the contract.

Also,
Joanne you have been big on the number of teachers employed. These are the numbers according to the district.
2001- 393; 02-404; 03-406; 04-417; 05-419; 06-407

Why were there so many teachers emloyed in 04 and 05? If we are running a 7 period day with 407 teachers, then why did we have so many on the books in the past? It may help to explain the years of deficit spending. Sam was giving Hillsdale and extra $500,000 per year for the smaller learning communities.

Is it overpayment of salaries or overspending by Sam.

Joanne

Sounds like the term "overpayment" is too emotionally laden. The contract, in prior years, had a formula for raises that was based on what the County Assessor PROJECTED the income was going to be for the SMUHSD. If the income came in lower, as it has for three of the last four years, then the SMUHSD wound up paying an amount which was higher than it could afford because it exceeded the income. Thus the salaries have been "financed" for several years by dipping into the reserves each year. ALL of its employees (including management) had their contracts negotiated on the PROJECTD income, rather than the ACTUAL income.
I don't think KRN's statement that "overpayments" in one year are countered by "underpayments" is accurate.
The last five years have produced deficits as follows: 02 (1.9); 03 about even; 04 (1.67); 05 (2.3) and 06 projection (2.3). The percentage difference between the County Assessor's projected income and the actual income for the last five years is : 02 (3.47%); 03 (.16); 04 (3.76%) and 05 (3.47%) with this year's being yet unknown. This is hard for many people to read (because they are not used to looking at numbers) but if you just look at 03, you will note that there was no deficit when the County Assesor's income projections were accurate...there were big deficits when it wasn't. So if the salaries of all the employees of the SMUHSD are based on PROJECTIONS, rather than ACTUAL, we will continue to have a mess. The teachers contract is currently being negotiated and this formula -- of basing salaries on inaccurate projections from the County -- as Steve posted above, HAS to stop.

Joanne

PS...Maybe KRN is saying that this year the teachers are offering to be "underpaid" to make up for last year's "overpayment" -- since the proposed increase is zero. The reserves have also been totally depleted so this is the only outcome that could occur.
In the interest of full disclosure, a zero percent raise proposal, could still mean that a given teachers still get a 5% raise. Union contracts have a general raise (for everybody) as well as raises based upon the number of years in the job and raises based upon extra things like taking extra classes. So if a teacher had taken college classes (2.5%) and had served an extra couple of years in the district (2.5%) s/he might be receiving a 5% raise next year.

Joanne

PSS...One last "take away" about the way salaries are negotiated in this district. With the formula of looking at projected income, putting the pot on the table, and allowing all the different groups to dig in, there is a vested interest in never having any new programs and never having any new teachers. In a Basic Aid district, such as the SMUHSD, the amount per student goes up with every student we "chase away" from the district and for every teacher NOT hired or for every teacher fired, there is more for the exisiting ones. The public needs to fully understand this dynamic so that in the future we can make thoughtful decisions which balance the needs of the exisiting teachers with the needs of new or proposed programs that benefit students.

Joanne

One final thought for anyone out there who might be thinking "What idiots..why didn't they correct the problem of paying raises on projected income the first time it resulted in a deficit?"
The teacher's union contract specified that this was the way raises would be determined. The contract was a three year contract and just ended in June of this year.
Corporations, even large ones, can often turn on a dime when the ship is off course. Union environments are controlled by their contracts which are often multi-year contracts. The length of contracts if negotiable; but too short a term means there is constant turmoil among the workforce. Some of the turmoil that we are seeing among the teachers is no doubt caused by the uncertainty of what the next contract will bring -- and it certainly is not a good economic environment to be negotiating for the teachers right now.

Joanne

I should have also mentioned that a multi-year contract isn't just for the benefit of management. Unions like them too. The only time employees can decertify (i.e. vote to "get rid of") their union is when they are inbetween contracts -- such as now. Once the new contract is signed, then all teachers have to be a member of the union, whether the union adequately represents his/her interests or not.

RCC

If a teacher goes out on his or her own time and receives schooling to better he/she as a teacher that teacher should be getting a pay raise regardless of the budget. The budget crisis can't stop our district from giving incentive for teachers to better their abilities to teach.

Joanne

RCC: There is a perfect world or a world as we'd like it to be, and then there is a real world, which is the one we live in. When you say that anyone -- teacher or no teacher -- should get a raide "regardless of the budget", or regardless of income, where is that money going to come from? I talked to one woman after the meeting last night who said that her husband didn't get a raise for 5 years because of his company's financial situation. I also know of other folks who haven't gotten a raise for the same number of years, because their entire raise was the increased cost of their health insurance. Believe me, I think there is nothing more valuable in the world than a good teacher -- and our family has been blessed to have been taught by many. Everyone knows of a teacher who has been life-changing. But where is the money for these deserved raises going to come from if the income doesn't come in from the county? So far, it's come from the "savings" account. Now there's no money left. So where is it going to come from?

anon

Joanne - Thank you for your detailed information. Also for the details in how our union contracts are negotiated. This is the stuff that rarely gets out, when headlines such as "3% CUT" are floated.

Having said that, I think our teachers are incredibly valuable and should be paid more.

I also agree, that removing Sam Johnson maybe emotionally satisfying to some, but in the end, our students are still stuck in this financial mess.

Lastly,I invite all of us to attend board meetings, particularly when budgets are discussed - and remind our board members and optimistic administrators about optimistic spending programs.

Marc Friedman

Regarding anon last comment, "I invite all of us to attend board meetings, particularly when budgets are discussed ". Last night the Burlingame School Board (of which I am a member and currently President) met and the main items on the agenda were Year-End (2005-06) Assessment (Test Scores, etc.) Review, Review of the Findings and Conclusions of the Improving Student Learning Task Force, and Review of the Year-End 2005-06 Financial Results.

With these three very important items on the agenda, there was all of two community members in the audience. They were both parent members of the Student Learning Task Force and participated in the discussion of that item but left prior to the discussion of the Year-End 2005-06 Financial Results. We discussed this item with no one in the audience.

Like the agendas for all of our meetings, the agenda for this meeting was posted at all of our schools, on our web site and distributed to the press. I have been on the Board for five years and there have been meetings when we have had a large attendance (and had to move the meeting to a gym). This occurred when we were discussing potential budget reductions. Draw whatever conclusions you want.

Oh, by the way, the Burlingame School District's year-end balance (reserve) is at the top end of the "healthy" range per the policy created by our Budget Advisory Committee". Also, our assessments (test scores) are up significantly over the past few years.

KRN

Joanne,

I'm sorry but you don't understand our contract, pay scale or work environement, and because of this you are passing on information that is misleading. The contract and formula was negotiated between the teachers and the district. It protects BOTH management and labor. Labor CANNOT ask for a salary increase that is larger than the formula. Comparing teachers to the private sector is misleading. As a teacher, I didn't get stock options or 20% salary increases in the boom years either.

Furthermore,
Movement up the salary scale is not a raise. It is a step based upon predetermined criteria and an agreement in the contract. The steps do end and then there are no more salary increases except % changes that come from year to year revenue. The salary scale does not adjust with inflation it has to be negotiated.

Finally,
A corporation is owned by the share holders. The Board of Directors and the CEO have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders to make a profit and report and act upon alll irregularities. Corporations can change at a moments notice because if they don't they will be sued by the owners, the shareholders.

Schools are owned by the public, directed by a Superintendent with the oversight of a school board. The Board's obligation is to protect the public and provide high quality eduction, it is not to turn a profit.
These are two distinct operating environments and they required differt styles of leadership.

Your analysis of the budget is incomplete without an understandiing of the contractual relationship between the district and its unions.
The salaries and benefits of the teachers (and firefighter, police, etc) are a reflection of their value to the community. BHS gets 94% of its students into college and 64% into a 4-year college for one simple reason, we value education. Teachers are not being greedy, we are being asked to take less and provide the same level of service.

The teachers salaries and benefts did not cause the crisis. The fact that the district employed too many teachers IS a factor in the budget crisis. The 7 period day, its pilot programm, and its continuation will continue to bankrupt the district. The revenues of the district HAVE increased each year.

The SMUHSD is the ONLY district in the state right now having financial difficulty. Why?

The district adopted the Academic Core and its adjuct, the 7 period day as its goal. It cannot pay for that goal and its is bankruptiing the district in the process.

Stop blaming the teachers for this disaster. The teachers have not organized the students, exploited the students, or abused the students. The students have acted on their own accord.

Rich Grogan

KRN, teachers = union and union = teachers. The teachers vote to ratify the contract the union and district agree upon. They are in the mix and your denial that they are not will not make it so. During an election for a Board Member, the Union will endorse or will not endorse a canidate. Union = teachers and teachers = union.

Occassionally, I would attend a District Meeting and I was amazed at the lack of people in the gallery.

ann

studen ts have acted, when they have, bases upon inaccurate info from teachers. why don't you simply quit, krn?

Joanne

Marc, I am happy you surfaced because I have been thinking lately about wanting to publicly thank the Burlingame School District Board and administration for doing a fine job. I had my own private doubts in prior years that the BSD was being a little too conservative with the budget (and I'm usually quite conservative!) -- I thought the reserve was too high and you should have given a little more to the teachers -- but this latest fiasco has taught all of us, I think, the benefit of being cautious.
You are absolutely right on about how no one watches where the tax dollars are going until there is a crisis. In this case, the faulty formula wound up financing the raises of ALL the employees of the SMUHSD (from the Superintendent to the custodians)by running down the reserves. The only people who didn't benefit are Mr. and Mrs. Public and their children. We could all do a better job participating in elections etc. but people are also very busy and torn between too many activities. It is a challenge to stay informed even when one makes a sincere effort. I would like to see the BSD board as well as the SMUHSD board work to televise its meetings...and use more electronic e-mail blasts to communicate with the public. In fact, I wish the SMUHSD would put its full budget, as well as its analysis of this current on its website. Maybe the BSD could too. The televised City Council meetings work well for lots of folks to stay informed, while multitasking with homework, lunches or simply doing other stuff. It would be great if the school boards could do this too. Again, thank you, Marc, as well as any of your peers who might be reading this, for your service to the BSD. I know that several of you on the board have financial backgrounds and your willingness to serve in these volunteer positions with complicated budgets is more important now than it ever has been. When are you up for re-election? Want to move to the SMUHSD?

Joanne

Hey...I blah, blahed and didn't actually say it. Thank you, Marc! And, Thank You to the rest of your board! Thank you also to the SMUHSD board...although, in hindsight, there is certainly stuff that could have been done differently, I appreciate your willingness to run and spend your time, month after month, at all those meetings.

RCC

Ann, I as a student act on the information I got from the board meeting last week, the information handed out there and the information on the district website, all of which are accurate sources.

Kevin

While I agree that budgeting based on a projected income is risky and leads to potential shortfalls, that is what the reserve for "econimic uncertainty" is for. I would even agree that it makes much more sense to budget based on the previous years actual revenue than the projected revenue. However, and here's the rub, that would require revamping the entire budgeting process for public services. All public employees salaries and budgets are calculated based on projected revenue. The problem is just like how most people spend their family budgets: you base your starting number on what your employer/funder says you will get paid, then pay your overhead costs (mortgage, utilities etc), you examine the rest of your needs and determine how much you will allocate to each. If you do your budgeting well, you come out with all your needs covered and a little added to your savings each month. Unfortunately, a publicly funded organization has no recourse when our employer/funder effectively says, sorry I know I promised you X dollars this year, but I suffered a legal loss and I'm changing that number. If anyone has a suggestion as to how we can budget for the district based on how much money we know we have without skipping a year of payments, I'd love to hear it.

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