Comments by birmy
Posted on May 23 at 9:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)
How can kids walk to some of the schools? There are no sidewalks. The cost of a sidewalk varies hugely. The one from Kinderhook to Valatie, about half a mile costs $1 million. Hard to figure why it costs so much. I suppose a concrete narrow sidewalk would run
$100 to $300 a lineal foot. That includes engineering. Where the costs run higher is for eminent domain, historical digs and moving utilities. You and I could put one in for next to nothing. But not so with the Town of Niskayuna and for any town that matter. I have not heard of anyone blaming the parents of Niskayuna students for their poor performance. Niskayuna students outperform most others. Niskayuna is ranked #1 school district by Capital District Business Review. If we were on a farm I believe we would give the most feed to the highest performing cows. Too bad the State of NY has not figured that one out yet. The budget was voted down I am guessing by primarily older residents who do not have kids in the district. They have every right to vote how they see fit. People who do not want Van Antwerp closed are more likely to have kids or grandkids there. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Posted on May 21 at 10:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Shen got millions of extra money. Shen had low tax increase. Niskayuna got next to nothing in the way of extra money from the state. Fiscal management and making taxpayers happy is easier when your legislators do more for your home district. Shen's Board of Education may be more "in touch" with greenbacks more than anything else. As long as they keep full-day kindergarten I can probably live with any cuts Niskayuna makes. I believe 2 school districts in the entire Capital Region do not have full-day Kindergarten. Let's hope we are not the 3rd. We are the #1 rated school district in the area. If we owned a farm would we give less feed to the highest performing cow?
Posted on May 15 at 8:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Your original post insinuated that police and fire are somehow getting bashed more so than teachers and state workers. I would love for their to be a study on how many "negative" articles if you want to call it that have been published over the last year and I have to believe the vast majority have been on teachers. Sure - once a year we see the highest paid employees in the cities and of course it is always police and fireman because they are eligible for overtime and earn 50% more than their base salaries in many cases. Is that a negative article? I guess no more negative than showing city school students underperforming their suburban counterparts. But the vast majority of negative articles IMO has been about teachers. Never suburban teachers. They seem to be doing well. Lots of articles bashing city school teachers. Somehow they must not be as good as suburban teachers.
Everyone can be mad at what teachers make. But your original post insinuated that teachers cost the state a lot more money than police and fire. In absolute terms a wholly true statement. But when we peel back the onion it does not pass the smell test. Everyone knows as valuable a service as police and fire provides they cost the state far more per employee than the per employee teacher cost. In fact in terms of pension costs 50% more per employee this upcoming year. Since at least 1983 teachers have not been able to use more than 10% of their extra pay (chess club, coaching) towards their final average salary for pension purposes. That has not been so with police and fire. That is why they are always the highest paid employees year in and year out in the city as overtime counts for their pension. It is not for me to decide if that is right or not. It is the way it is. But we shouldn't make it seem like teachers are raking it in more so than police and fire. They are not even in the same ballpark. And because police and fire risk their lives maybe they should be. I think teachers earn their pennies too. 60% of teachers quit teaching within the first 5 years so the benefits may not outweigh the stresses IMO. Why would 60% quit if it was a cake job with lots of time off? Why?
Posted on May 13 at 5:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)
If you are talking about absolute costs then yes. The teacher budget is larger than police and fire. But for only 1 reason. The number of students being educated in NYS requires a large number of teachers. You could raise class size to an average of 35-40 kids per class and it would not make a difference. Teacher costs dwarf police and fire. Someone needs to be in the classroom. I read an article about the proliferation of robots coming in the next 15-20 years. Maybe that is the answer.
But you lost me when you seem not to realize that police and fireman make more as individuals and cost the taxpayer 50% more per employee in pension costs than teachers. Read again: 50%. For all we hear about teacher pensions going up (nearly identical percentage to state workers by the way) the aforementioned statistic (50%) is cited on the back page in newspapers. Police and fire earn every penny as you mentioned, they risk their lives. But when you can retire after 20 years and also count all the overtime towards your pension (teachers get zero overtime and can count only 10% of their extra work/duties towards their pension) you start seeing pension numbers for police and fire that rival Superintendents in school districts. Supers like it or not are the CEO's of districts managing 10-180 million budgets. I am not saying it is wrong for police and fire to retire with $80,000-$90,000 pensions in Capital Region. 10,000 NYC retired cops earn 6 figure pensions. Nor am I saying they do not earn it. But it seems disingenuous to suggest teachers are raking it in when anyone who knows anything about pay scales would realize they make far less than police and fire and not just in retirement. In one small city district in Albany County a 2nd year policeman makes $58,000. In that same district it would take a teacher 14 years to make that much money! I believe Niskayuna police are not paid nearly as well as Schenectady so there are differences in pay even within the community of course.
Let's get to the answer. If it is not affordable then change it. Period. They interviewed a NYC cop about his $160,000 pension and he stated something to the effect that if overtime is being abused then change it. If taxpayers desire 50 kids in a room so the overall budget is 15 billion in stead of the current 21 billion then do it. I have stated before in these posts I do not know where the money goes. A teacher, that is required to have 6 years of college, starts at $38,00-$46,000 and ends at $80,000-$90,000 30 years later and earns a $50,000-$60,000 pension in Capital Region. You can bookmark those numbers as there is very little fluctuation in them. If that is unaffordable then I suppose it needs to be changed. That is why we are on Tier 6. (up from Tier 4 just a few years ago.)
A pharmacist, requires 6 years of college, starts at $115,000 according to Albany College of Pharmacy. Maybe health care costs have got something to do with public sector costs?
Posted on May 12 at 8:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)
I don't know why Schenectady would have that low a percentage of non-white teachers. What would be interesting is to compare Albany High students' performance (Albany High has a large percentage of non-white teachers I believe) with Schenectady's students.
While I suppose it is admirable to have a larger percentage of non-white teachers in a Schenectady district - high student performance requires students to do work and retain what is learned no matter what race their teacher is. Hard work! Lots of studying and coming to school motivated to do one's best. If we took all the highly rated teachers from high performing districts like in Niskayuna and Colonie and put them in Schenectady schools would the students achieve at the same level as their suburban counterparts?
Posted on May 11 at 11:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Now health insurance won't cost $15,000-$20,000 for a family plan. A family plan in 1991 cost $2,000. The cost of health care has got nothing to do with the cost of schools, state employment, police, fire or municipal workers. Right? A teacher assistant in at least 50% of districts can cost more in health insurance than salary. <<< believe it. Obama's plan to tax insurance if it costs more than $24,000 will never happen because we all know insurance will never get that expensive. Right?
From: MVP unveils merger plan
Posted on May 3 at 7:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)
The article said, "Teachers generally don’t even earn overtime, but school districts’ payments to their pension system will rise to an equivalent of 16 percent of teachers’ salaries this year."
Teachers in fact do not earn overtime. Not sure what the word "generally" means. Teachers cannot earn more than 10% of their base salary (by doing extracurriculars such as the chess club, art club) for final average salary (FAS) purposes. Since at least 1983 teachers by law have not been able to "pension pad" as you put it.
As far as the pension contributions going up by 16% it is no secret that state workers are a percentage point or two behind that number and other public sector workers are over that number by 50% to around 22-23%.
My Dad told me taxes in North Carolina in a town where he was staying was $900 a year. I looked up school district and besides it having awful statewide ranking in almost all categories the median salary of a teacher was $49,000 and the average pay for an administrator was $83,000. Average spent on a student was $10,000. I have no idea where all the school taxes go in NYS but those numbers appear to be somewhat in the ballpark with what teachers and administrators make in Capital Region. I am unsure if building projects for20-30 million here or there is school tax money too. I do not know.
Posted on April 25 at 7:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)
The Taylor Law was enacted in the 1960s while the Triborough Amendment didn't get created until 1982. Many states have provisions that forbid public employee strikes which is the most often stated aspect of the Taylor Law. I think there are interesting arguments on each side about Triborough. Many unions believe it levels the playing field with employers whereas municipalities and school districts think it gives an advantage to the unions. The former in an environment of 2% tax caps and state aid levels that are at lower levels than 4 years ago does not seem very plausible that Unions are raking it in when a contract expires. Even less believable if you look at the last few years of contracts being settled in the Capital Region. My personal belief is when we hear advocates discuss the modification of Triborough we are listening to code words that will lead to frozen salaries of public employees when the contract expires. I think the debate becomes more honest if that would come to the forefront. If a contract expires many years can go by before a settlement is reached. Think Mechanicvile... No retroactive pay is ever given. So I am unsure how we can prescribe to the philosophy that the Unions rake it in when Triborough is in effect when in reality no new money is added to the contract. If Triborough is modified then strikes may become a possibility such as what we have seen in Vermont. In sum, the contracts being settled in Capital Region in the last few years have been close to zeros. Getting rid of Triborough will allow for frozen salaries of public workers which is why I believe there is discussion about it. Not because Unions have a lot of power in this fiscal environment because as we have seen that is not the case.
Posted on April 21 at 8:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)
I have never commented twice on one article but I like a healthy debate. Some may not know this. Tier 3 and 4, the latter of which has been around since 1983 had a provision that did not allow teachers to boost their final average salary (FAS) by more than 10% of their base salary by doing extracurricular activities. For example, if a teacher in their last 3 years of service were making $80,000 and coached a sport, ran chess club, ran MasterMinds, ran this and ran that and earned $9,000 doing all those activities ONLY $8,000 would be counted towards boosting their FAS. So abuse of pensions with regard to teachers was never a possibility in addition to fact that they get no overtime. Tier 6 was created under Cuomo and now other public sector workers can only "boost" their FAS by up to 15% with overtime (while teachers remain at 10%). Abuse of pensions by teachers is not possible. Tier 6, which requires public servants (excluding police officers) to work until age 63, makes it so NYS pays 51% and employees 49% of costs associates with retirement and the rub against this is NYS will not see tens of billions of savings for 30 years until Tier 6 employees outnumber the former tiers. Whether you are in a cubicle, high flyer political patronage job or work in an inner city classroom right out of college you will not collect a pension until 41 years later at age 63. As far as teacher aides in schools go... when public school districts stopped using BOCES services to the extent they were, they created in district classrooms for emotionally disturbed and life skill students both of whom receive special education services. These aides which are mandated under many federal disabilities laws are generally hourly employees making $11,000-$14,000 a year not including health insurance. 60% of teachers quit the profession within the first 5 years even though as many of you pointed out there is summers off. And if you teach summer school that does not count whatsoever towards your FAS as only the regular school year does. If anyone thinks all teachers are able to grade their papers during the day and do all their lessons too I believe they would be mistaken. There is no doubt the teaching profession is under fire more so than state workers or other public sector professions.
Posted on April 20 at 8:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)
NYS taxpayers are cooked if this goes through. I was on a plane coming back from vegas 7 years ago and a Massachusetts resident told me he lived in a $500,000 assessed home and was paying $3,000 a year in taxes. He could not believe what we pay in NYS for school and county taxes. If you pay $7,500 or even $10,000 or more in school and country taxes then that allows you to have a large federal tax deduction. This proposal is awful and will do nothing to lower taxes in NYS and is simply a money grab for broke government.