The deliberative session for the school district warrant was held on February 4, 2009.
In this post, I would like to review the warrant taking into consideration the impact of the major articles on the estimated tax rate in each town. The first two articles deal with the election of officers for the ensuing terms while the second article asks the voters to accept the reports of the various agents of the school.
Article 3 is the Operating budget for the 2010-2011 school year. The proposed budget is $30,495,649. This represents an increase of 2.1% over the current operating budget. During the deliberative session, Mary Marshall , chair of the Budget Committee, made a presentation and walked those in attendance through the budget process. I also presented an explanation of each of the requested budget increases. There was very little discussion on the budget warrant article and the article will appear on the ballot as presented. The estimated tax rate resulting from this article is $16.95 in Kingston and $16.58 in Newton.
Article 4 is the warrant article for the teacher contract. As you recall, the voters have turned down the teacher’s contract for the past two years. Listening to the voters, the negotiators on both sides of the table were able to reach a tentative agreement that we believe will meet the demands of the taxpayers while providing our teachers with a contract. The two-year agreement reached with the Professional Staff includes a step increase for teachers without a cost of living allowance (COLA). Teachers at the top of the salary schedule will receive a flat payment of $1,100. in year one and $1,500. in year 2. Health care, which reportedly was an area of concern for voters last year, has changed significantly. Teachers will now pay a higher co-pay as well as contributing more to their share of the health insurance costs. We will also be offering a health savings account medical plan that will potentially save the district and employees significant money. The estimated tax rate impact of this article is 53 cents per thousand in Kingston and 56 cents per thousand in Newton in the first year of the contract. In the second year, the rate is estimated to be 42 and 44 cents per thousand respectively. That translates to approximately $53.00 on a home valued at $100,000.
Article 5 is the Support Staff contract article. Negotiators reached a 3-year agreement with the Support Staff. This agreement calls for a 2% Cost of Living increase and a step in each year of the contract and a 3% increase for each year for members at the top step. The 64 members of the bargaining unit will also be increasing their contribution to health care and have the option of participating in the Health Care Savings account at a cost savings to the district and the employee. The estimated tax rate impact of this agreement is 11 cents per thousand in Kingston and 12 cents per thousand in Newton for the first year. In years two and three, the rate is estimated to be 13 and 14 cents per thousand in each town. This translates to approximately $11.00 on a home valued at $100,000.
Following a presentation of the articles and explanation by School Board Chair Kurt Baitz and Vice Chair Nancy Ross, there were a few clarifying questions and the articles will all appear on the warrant as presented. One of the concerns raised was the notion of the “Evergreen Clause”. I would like to take a moment here to explain what this means to the voters.
The evergreen clause is a clause that is now part of negotiated contracts as a result of State legislation passed two years ago. The language of the law indicates that in the event that a new contract is not passed in the future, bargaining unit members continue to receive their step raises. Opponents of the evergreen clause suggest that bargaining unit members have no need to negotiate in the future since they will get pay raises anyway. True, bargaining unit members will receive step increases, but they will not receive any type of Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) tied to their contract. There are also many other reasons why bargaining units WANT to negotiate new contracts (working conditions, other benefits, time, etc.). As a Superintendent, I do not see this as a “deal breaker” for voters. While bargaining unit members will receive a step increase, it is not the only reason for negotiation. I encourage voters to support both the teacher and support staff contracts.
The final article on the warrant is the Drugs are Dangerous article. The warrant article asks voters to raise $2500.00 for the Drugs are Dangerous program. This article results in less than 1 cent on the tax rate.
I want to thank the voters and members of the community who came out to the deliberative session last week. I look forward to seeing everyone at the polls.