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.