Teachers’ spokesman: ‘Don’t stop paying our health supplements’

Fayette BoE urged to retain medical, dental pay for system workers

McIntosh High School history teacher Joseph Jarrell is a mainstay at meetings of the Fayette County Board of Education. Though usually one to sit in the audience, the Fayette representative of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) at the April meeting made a presentation advocating that the school board continue providing the medical and dental supplement for employees.

Jarrell in the presentation provided a slate of information intended to bolster the PAGE position that is opposed to the potential elimination of the health insurance and dental insurance supplement currently provided to school system employees. The school system currently provides a $71.14 per month supplement for health insurance and $22 per month as a supplement for dental insurance.

Noting the trend of falling revenues and increasing costs, Jarrell nonetheless said eliminating the benefit supplement is not a wise choice. Citing three reasons for PAGE’s opposition, Jarrell said Fayette salaries are below the metro Atlanta average and, when coupled with the upcoming salary reduction that will average approximately 2.6 percent, an additional reduction would have a dramatic impact. The third reason, Jarrell said, deals with the potential that benefits cuts are based on school system financial projections that may not be accurate.

Addressing the first two reasons, Jarrell referenced an analysis that showed Fayette teachers are below average compared to other school systems in metro Atlanta. Fayette County is part of the Griffin RESA (Regional Educational Service Agency) that is not representative of the salaries received by metro Atlanta counties, Jarrell said. Additionally, the pay received by Fayette teachers is based on 190 days while most districts are based on fewer days, Jarrell said, noting that the new school calendar for 2012-2013 will have teachers working five fewer days.

The school board in December voted to go to a 177-day calendar in a move designed to save a total of $3.3 million.

Jarrell made the point of Fayette’s lower salaries by using information from 20 metro Atlanta school districts, most of which, like Fayette, are located in the 10-county Atlanta Regional Commission area. The 20 school systems include both city and county systems. Of those Fayette ranked 15th for beginning teachers and between 11th and 15th for teachers with additional years of experience. Those numbers are in contrast with Fayette County’s ranking in median income where it is positioned second in the state behind Forsyth County, Jarrell said.

Advocating for maintaining the current supplement, Jarrell said Fayette needs an attractive benefits package to compete for good teachers, media specialists, counselors and administrators. And in terms of employees such as bus drivers, lunch staff, custodians, nurses, secretaries an parapros, Jarrell said many of those employees work in the school system for the benefits. Supplement cuts could cause Fayette to lose some of its best classified employees to other districts, Jarrell maintained.

Moving to the third reason for opposing the elimination of insurance supplements, Jarrell said the cuts would be based on financial projections that may not be accurate. By way of example, he cited the fund balance in the General Fund budget for June 30 in the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and the projection for the ending balance in 2012. The end-of-year figures for most of those years were $5-13 million higher than the initial projections. Some of those years did include unexpected sums of money, Jarrell added.

The bottom line, Jarrell said, is that, in terms of the amount of money on hand at the end of the year, the school system tends to do better than what is projected.

“So when you look at the figures of the last few years the trending is much better than anticipated,” Jarrell said.

PAGE is not a union, Jarrell noted, and includes 1,291 members in the Fayette County School System.

Smart Woman
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Bearden's crew

You are so right NUK. Get someone in finance who knows something. This has gone on far too long.

Why not look at the administration? What has Bearden done since he's been in office? There is a new DeKalb chief. That woman came in and requested an audit of every non-school position. If Bearden was really looking for waste money, why hasn't he done the same? I bet you would find a lot of areas not in the schools that they don't need. But don't stop there, after that audit all of the other areas, including the schools.

DrB
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Get somone in finance who knows something

Get me. I have a PhD in finance. I am pro audits and pro economies of scale and pro capping your spending at your revenue level.

www.barrymarchman.com

Robert W. Morgan
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Need 2 volunteers to help union thug Jarrell

Mr. "PAGE is not a union but I represent 1291 teachers" Jarrell needs some help from the older and wiser generation. We need just two people. First, someone who used to be an Eastern Airline pilot - please come forward and help explain the Frank Lorenzo years to Mr. Jarrell. Secondly, any air traffic controller fired by President Reagan, please explain to Mr. Jarrell who has been paying your health care insurance premiums the last 30years.

$71 and 22 is $93 per month. Small amount of money for an individual teacher, but a huge amount when multiplied by 1291. Do we really have that many teachers? Get with the program dude, something has to be cut and if you want to quibble over $93 per month for something that is of no benefit whatsoever to the students we are supposed to be educating, go for it. Just don't act surprised when the teachers that lose their jobs think of you as the next Frank Lorenzo.

Newsflash Joe, times are tough. Cushy union-like contracts are a thing of the past. There are plenty of people qualified to be teachers who would gladly accept the Fayette County pay scale and pay their own insurance - just like most everybody else does in the real world. They could easily afford the insurance if they didn't have to pay their union dues, doncha know. Or is PAGE free of fees?

opusman
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RWM stick to politics my friend

First let me say …On many political issues you and I agree but here you are clueless……”Older Wiser Generation” Robert you definitely don’t belong to that generation when dealing with education. Stick to your political forte because your lack of knowledge clearly comes through in matters of educational funding and operation. PAGE is most definitely not union and not free ($99.00 annual fee).  Georgia is a right to work state making Teachers' Unions any union of state employees illegal. You did know that? Right? No collective bargaining power exists between Page and its members and the state or county. Find a Teachers' Union listed in GA… (http://www.unions.org/unions/georgia/10) Also, most companies in the U.S provide health benefits for their employees and often pay completely or partially for those benefits. Teachers pay the majority of their health insurance costs where the county only pays a small portion.  Retirement will be your next attack … well here you go. Teachers  pay into teacher retirement just as many in the business world pay into employer matched or percentage 401k. Then LOL” Cushy union-like contracts “ have you ever seen a teacher's ANNUAL contract.  You have absolutely no clue of what you speak.

Now to continue, cuts have to be made and if it requires the employer paid portion of the benefits so be it. Furlough days, school closures etc. everything should be on the table. The ineptness of the past and now current administration is doing nothing except compounding the situation. If schools need to be closed or combined do a study to find out which are more feasible and cost effective and do it NOW during the summer for the up coming school year - not irresponsibly waiting for the 2013 school year. In Mr. Jarrell’s ignorance he pushed for the teachers to have pay cuts fully restored instead of waiting a month or two see what might have been coming. This ignorance led to  $6 million being added to the budget shortfall. (If this pay cut had not been restored coupled with the current jobs lost through attrition the deficit would have been virtually 0). Patience is a virtue.. So when Mr.  Jarell  gripes about losing his 91 dollars the county pays toward health benefits…. He needs to look no further than his own mirror.

 

Here are Real and logical cost saving measures:

1: Close Tyrone Elementary—Barely 300 students 79 of which are there by special permission…Sitting on a site with no room for expansion waiting on a known issue of septic system failure. If the board won’t close it the EPA will shortly. Split the students between other nearby schools.

 

2.Do as proposed with Fayette Middle and reposition the students as proposed. Or close Bennett's Mill and divide those students among the nearby middle schools .

 

3. Close Brooks since it is on the verge of closing itself through declining population. Split those students between Inman and Minter.

4. Move those 40 students and staff from Rivers back to FCHS where they originally came from ...or move them to the LEC.

5. Rent /lease/ sell Rivers to a University as a satellite campus…. If possible.

6. Look at supplements …. Did anyone realize some head HS football coaches in Fayette County receive a supplement of over  17,000 (AVG 2000-8000 nationally) on top of their teaching salary plus what is given to them by Boosters. 

7. Lose the second Assistant Super Position. ….. One has 30 plus yrs in…. Retire already… Savings of another 135,000.

Also you save by losing the positions of administrators from Brooks and Tyrone (Both have their 30 yrs and more giving them the ability to retire) 108,944.00 an the other 105,731.00 add in saving from one assistant superintendent retiring total salary savings alone is 564,350.00.

 

 

renault314
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Rob, you need a little perspective

I understand your general distrust of unions, and even though I am a teacher in this county, I share them. Georgia is a right to work state, meaning we could not strike even if we wanted too. Teacher unions in Ga may exist, but they have no teeth. Mostly they just serve to express their collective members opinions. The vast majority of the teachers I know that belong to one union or the other do so almost exclusively for the liability insurance that comes with memebership. You can rail all you like against Lorenzo and "cushy union-like contracts" but that is a red herring here. Those contracts dont exist.
I think it's rediculous that most government jobs (especially at the federal level) pay significantly more than their civilian counterparts. And they have cushy benefits packages. Its a sign of big gov't nanny state out of control.
But that's really not whats happening here. Teachers do generally have nice benefit packages, but very much like the military, its part of the compensation for lower than average salary. Teachers with masters and doctorate degrees make far less than those in the private sector with similar ed. levels. And despite the fact that Fayette is one of the wealthies counties in the metro area, our teachers are already towards the bottom in pay.
You say that $93/month is not a big deal and and don't know how much you make so to you it might not be. But that money, on top of the pay cut we will be taking next year, on top of the cuts we have been taking for the last several years, adds up to a big deal.
The problem is actually worse than that. Our insurance does not cost $93/mo. Thats just the portion that the county pays for us. Its actually much more expensive than that, and our premiums are going up next year, regardless of weather or not the county continues to pay that portion of it. So youre comment about teachers having to pay for their own insurance like everyone else is also way off the mark. Employers paying for a portion of employees health insurance is the norm, not the exception but you try to make it sound like of all the people in the world, teachers alone dont have to pay for health insurance. Just not true.
You also said that the $93 was of no benefit to students and I think this too is short sighted. This cut, along with all the other cuts and lack of COLA increases we've endured have led to most of to get paid several thousand dollars a year less than we did back in 2008-2009. Do you really think that the excellent teachers we have here wont go to a different county to get that money back? So, when the quality teachers, (the good ones who can get a job anywhere) have gone to other counties and Fayette only has the dregs to select from to replace lost teachers, do you really believe that wont have a negative, long term impact on the students? I know you're smarter than that.
I dont think that someone should agree to do a job at a particular wage and then threaten to shut the buisiness down when they happen to decide they want more. That is my general impression of unions, and I think yours too. But I also dont think that you should hire people at a certain wage and beneies package and then constantly reduce the salary either.

Robert W. Morgan
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Good response, renault314

Makes sense as well. Most people respond to something like I wrote with racial slurs or Democrat talking points or an outright attack on the messenger - you did none of that - so congrats.

I actually understand your point about hiring at a certain level and then chipping away at it and also how benefits make up for lower salary, but my understanding of the whole thing is that these are 1 year contracts offered each year, so while it isn't fair to violate a contract, it is probably ok to modify the terms of next years contract.

I sure understand PAGE membership being a very good thing if liability insurance is included. I didn't know about that. Last thing a teacher needs is some bogus sexual harassment charge. It is bad enough you are expected to raise everyone's kids while they are off earning a living, you need and deserve that protection. No argument there.

And you are certainly correct that federal government employee salary and benefit packages are way over the top. Only solution there is a gigantic downsizing by eliminating entire agencies. You do know that some of us actually view school teachers as government employees as well. Maybe not fair, but there it is.

Losing some teachers over pay issues is inevitable. Already have lost some to Woodward and other private schools - that's just going to happen anyway. The $93 alone won't drive them away or keep them. And the neighboring counties have bigger problems than we do.

However, the elephant in the room remains - $2million in the hole. What do we do? Close a couple of schools, sure, but what else. It would be irresponsible not to look at personnel-related costs as they make up the largest part of the budget. Painful? Sure, but look at where we are - $2million in the hole and more expected next year.

renault314
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good response RWM

Most people deride my spelling and grammar when they find out I am a teacher and you didnt do that either so thanks!

yes, contracts are renewed annually, and the terms for next years wages are clearly defined. But, for the last few years, there has been a provision in our contracts that says very bluntly "if we need to reduce your salary for any reason in the middle of the year because we dont have as much money as we thought, we can and will." I have my contract here. I can quote the exact passage if youre interested. If we dont sign the contract, we dont have a job next year. Most people in the private sector dont have to sign contracts like that.

yeah, PAGE membership comes with like a million dollars worth of liability insurance for defending yourself against lawsuits. Theya re really good about it.

I agree teachers are government employees, theres no other way to look at it. But its one of those jobs like a soldier or an air traffic controller, where theres just no civilian analouge. Now, before you say it, yes there are private schools and such. But most people even if they kept their property tax and got the 4K from the state, could not afford to send their kids to private school. And there is no districting and bussing for most private schools, so transportation become infinitely more expensive and complicated. Privatizing school in the U.S. is just not practical at this time, so youll continue to need that old standby gov't mule, the teachers. Regardless of weather you consider teachers gov't employees or not, The issue is weather or not we are getting excessive compensation and benefits, which clearly we do not.

As for 2mil deficit? Well. There are some options. Closing some under used schools are an obvious choice, but parents get upset about that for idiotic reasons. I grew up a military brat. I had 4 different elementary schools by the 4th grade. i somehow managed to survive. your kid will too.

There was talk of going to 4 day weeks, which theoreticaly would cut hourly wage payroll, fuel costs and electricity use by %20 right off the top. I liked that idea. Who doesnt want 3 day weekends?

I also like the idea of getting rid of busses altogether. Or pay a hefty use fee. There is not law or govt gurantee that says you have the right to get bussed to school. half the parents take their kids to school anyway. Sell the ones that are paid for, keep the ones that are leased for field trips and athletics. That would save a few mill in diesel alone.

G35 Dude
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RWM-Lets think outside the box!

I understand where we are and have a good idea how we got here. But the one thing that bothers me is how the worker bees are the ones that we always look to balance things. You know, the people that have already suffered pay cuts etc. Where is the discussion on Dr Bearden and his staff? What are they contributing? Why aren't we looking at other ways to fill this 2 Million dollar hole? Why not think outside the box so to speak? Does every high school have to have it's own football field? Why not do like Clayton and have a couple of fields that could be shared thereby saving some money on upkeep? Maybe parents that have kids that ride the school bus could pay $20-$25 a year for this privilege? I'm sure that there are lots of ideas that could be tried if we were just willing. Instead we just keep taking from those that can least afford to give. If we keep beating the horse that is pulling the wagon without lighting his load he'll soon die or run away.

Dondol
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G35 Dude - Keep Digging

Why stop there? Does every High school need 4-5 Asst. Principals, every HS football team need 11 Coaches? And how many Asst Superintendents does our County need? On the other hand they are already charging all of the Athletics and Band a one time bus charge ($15ea) and since they tabled the request for Artifice Turf they are requiring all of the boosters to pay $2,000.00 for field maintenance. But hell they won't listen to us, we're just the ones who pay the bills!

G35 Dude
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Dondol - You're right

They're not going to listen until they're forced too.

Robert W. Morgan
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Outside the box indeed, Gdude

We are getting very close to a time when not only does each school not need a football field, they don't even need a football team. Get real people, we are in an extreme financial crisis and almost everyone is clueless. Subsidies to the teachers health care insurance? Huh?

Football coaches who don't teach classes? Huh?

Come on people, we have issues with spending and need real solutions. Close the schools that are not filled, get the buses parked and get rid of the frivilous stuff.

You could also get rid of the Clayton trash that sneaks into our schools and lowers the SAT scores, if you have the guts. Or do you let them in to collect the $4k from the state?

Or don't. Then you could just keep spending $75k for people in the home office that do next to nothing.

Bearden may grow a pair after the liberal housfraus are gone.

NUK_1
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Not that simple

"Close the schools that are not filled?" Well, the newest school is the least utilized one in Rivers, and it's not like the BOE or anyone else can just "return" it to the store for an exchange or credit. Obviously, you need to use the newest school and that means serious re-districting, something that any BOE hates because people get mad as hell. It's past the point of griping over how it should never been built; it is there and time to use it.

You have at least one and maybe two superintendent positions that need to be completely eliminated. Until the BOE management gets a significant reduction in force and much better aligned to what the mission of this public school system is, there will be plenty of howling from teachers if you expect them to bear the brunt of the challenge of undoing years of financial ineptitude.

A new Finance Dir would also be a big improvement. I'm pretty sure that there exists finance folks out there who can who would actually work for this BOE and create reports containing accurate numbers and who are also competent. What we have now is a complete joke in that regards. It's the blind leading the blind and the fact is that the BOE Finance Dept really sucks and they are the ones providing the information to the elected officials and Bearden.

Robert W. Morgan
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Well sure, you fill Rivers up and close 2 or 3 other schools

Common sense. Also common sense to sell the old schools and generate some revenue. Its not like we are ever going to need them. The people who get upset about redistricting do not have the power they used to over elected officials. That being said, the current School Board has every reason to dither and stall so that they entertain their faint hope of being reelected, so the tough decisions are not going to be made for a while and by next year it will be a $4million problem instead of just a $2million problem. That's what the delay over wanting to "see the numbers" is all about. In the real world if someone made a money-saving presentation without showing the exact amount of money being saved - they would be fired. Maybe that's why you said a new finance director would be needed. Who is it now? Back in the day it was Steve Rapson and he did a great job.

The problem with eliminating positions in the front office is that there is minimal savings and the people filling those positions have daily face time with the powers that be. Teachers are a better target because they are large in number, replaceable and a small savings like the health care supplement becomes huge when applied to all the teachers. Not sayin' that's right, but it is what passes for a thought process in a political organization.

Anyone who wants to be elected to school board should have a pretty easy time because the system is broken and the board is clearly at fault. I'd be happier to see someone elected that had 2 or 3 specific ideas that would save a significant amount of money and it is certainly time for those ideas to be new ones. Park the empty buses, sell or even rent the unused schools, pay the teachers only for students that graduate or attain a passing grade, whatever works.

You want to get way outside the box - kill off the sports teams - or at least some of them. At the very least be honest about he actual cost to the taxpayer. I heard on the radio that our neighbors in Clayton County ($16million deficit) are considering doing away with MIDDLE SCHOOL sports teams, but there is huge opposition. Let's see if we can be more proactive ad creative than Clayton County, shall we? How does having a good football team at McIntosh or Sandy Creek help the kids learn enough to get by. It can't be recruiting. What is the advantage? More importantly, what is the cost? And if you don't have a football team, you don't need a football field. Plenty of room for trailers when enrollment picks up in 10 or 15 years.

You can also look at the revenue side. Did you know that if you are over 65 and can show just 1 tax return with a low state income, you can eliminate most of the tax that goes to schools? It cuts your tax bill in half. How much are we losing there? No, that's not popular either, but things like that need to be looked at.

Come to think of it, why should the school board be elected? Trying to be popular to get elected and then having to make unpopular decisions is a real stretch. Let's just appoint the school board - One 4-year term only.
We can have county commission appoint them. Each commissioner would pick a relative and be responsible for finding another every 4 years. What's not to like?

ptctaxpayer
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School Board Deficit

You guys are right. It's $ 2 mil in the hole.

The School Board will not cut any personnel costs at all and they won't touch retirement. It's what business does and is doing but not the government.

They probably do what Imker is doing in Peachtree City--- raid the reserve fund or the stormwater money to balance the budget. It will be another funny money deal like Congress using Soc Sec for something other than Soc Sec.

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