Broadalbin-Perth budget plan avoids deep cuts
BROADALBIN & PERTH The Broadalbin-Perth Board of Education is set to adopt a $29.5 million 2011-12 budget Thursday that cuts services and increases the tax levy by 4.88 percent.
The budget increases spending from last year by 1.64 percent, or $476,000, and spends approximately $1 million of the district’s fund balance, its reserve of unspent tax revenues from previous years.
The budget plan lays off one high school Spanish teacher, eliminates one elementary teacher through attrition and cuts one half-time high school math teacher and one half-time elementary teachers aide. It eliminates about half the district’s modified sports teams and merges the district’s wrestling team with the Galway Central School District. An elementary teachers aide and a high school secretary who are retiring will not be replaced.
Most of the deep cuts projected at the beginning of the school’s budget process were avoided thanks in part to the last-minute restoration of state aid approved as part of the state budget deal. The district’s state aid will be cut by $1.6 million or 12.9 percent from 2010-2011, which is $270,000 less than Gov. Andrew Cuomo had originally proposed.
Another factor that saved teachers’ jobs is use of $750,000 of federal funding for teacher salaries, part of a program approved last year. Tomlinson said the federal jobs money has now been exhausted and won’t be available in future years unless Congress renews the program.
“Every school district in the county is using that federal money. Without it, we would have had to lay off 20 teachers,” he said.
Although the teacher salary cost is technically going down thanks to the federal aid, other personnel cost increases still dominate the 2011-12 spending plan: $350,000 more for health insurance costs; $690,000 more for the teachers retirement system; and $120,000 more for the state employee retirement system.
The district had proposed a one-year wage freeze to its teachers union that would have saved $800,000, but the union rejected it.
Negotiations between teachers unions and school districts are normally kept secret from the public until after deals are agreed to, but in this instance both sides revealed details.
Broadalbin-Perth Teachers Association President Phil Meashaw said the teachers offered the district a “creative solution to help offset the budget cuts to education” that would have saved $300,000, but the district rejected the offer. He said the teachers also offered a plan to reduce health insurance costs by $200,000.
Tomlinson said the teachers offered to freeze their salaries for half of the 2011-12 school year, and freeze coaching stipends, in exchange for a three-year extension of their contract through 2015, which would include 1 percent annual raises added to the district’s 2.25 percent average annual “step raises,” which would guarantee the teachers an annual salary increase of about 3.25 percent through 2015.
He said the district would have agreed to the contract extension if the BPTA would allow the district to offer the teachers the choice of choosing the Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO B plan. Broadalbin-Perth’s teachers contract does not allow the district to offer any health insurance plans to its members that are not specifically required by the contract.
“We came back and said we can agree to that, only if you allow your membership the opportunity subscribe to the PPO B plan. Not force them to subscribe to it, just the opportunity to. That’s the most affordable plan for employees and the district, but the BPTA is not allowing its membership to subscribe to that plan, which every other employee at the district has the ability to do,” he said.
Meashaw confirmed Tomlinson’s description of the negotiations. He said the BPTA had proposed the district begin offering a new health plan called the Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO H plan, but when the district refused the union decided to take health insurance negotiations off the table.
Tomlinson said overall he’s pleased with the budget the school board is set to adopt at a special Thursday morning meeting at 7 a.m. at the district’s high school.