Time to play a fair game.

People are right to want to increase the pay of our teachers. Fair pay is essential in keeping our wonderful staff. There’s nothing wrong with trying to help our kids get a great education. The question is: How much yearly percentage of wage increase do you feel is fair? We can only make good decisions when we have ALL the facts. I’m trying to provide them to you.
Isn’t that what our elected School Board members are supposed to be doing?

It’s a verifiable fact that the proposed teachers’ 2020 contract provides over 8.5% wage increase for next year and over 5% wage increase the year after. So why is the Union and certain members of the school board telling us that it is a 2% increase even though it is much more than that?
Answer: They’re not playing a fair game. They are trying to keep you focused on one small part of a 19 page document where a lot more additional compensation is added to the teachers’ bottom line. I expect the Union to do that but I expect much more from those we have elected to represent us. Some of our School Board members are acting more like like Union reps than elected officials. I would be happy to support a sustainable, affordable 3-4% total wage increase per year. How much do you expect to get at your place of employment?

What happens if the proposed funding for the contract is voted down in March 2020? On the negative side, the teachers will continue to receive the same wages as the past 2 years. On the plus side, all benefits listed below will continue including the zero deductible health insurance plan.

Another year has passed and it will soon be time to go vote for all the things that can increase your property tax bill. It’s a fact that just a few months ago, the approved school budget and warrants that we voted for in 2019 added over $1.25 to our tax rate. That was nearly a 10% jump. We can’t continue on this course. We all know that costs go up every year. I’m advocating for an affordable, sustainable compromise from both the School and the Town.

I’m searching for and sharing the WHOLE TRUTH so folks can actually know what they are voting for. In an effort to play fair, I check with the SAU about my calculations. We have a right to know the full truth. I make sure that folks can watch these budget meetings and be informed. I go to the meetings, state my position, and back it up with facts. Someone called that "embarrassing"? What???  I recently made a video with Town Moderator Dino Scala explaining the Deliberative Session process and what you can do there.
Due to my outspoken efforts to enact change, my opponents (I do not consider them enemies) are calling me “hateful” , “insane” and accusing me of “holding a grudge.” I find it amusing that I have been accused of spreading misinformation when the Union and three school board members are the ones showing you only what they want you to see! There's an old saying: It's always the thief who accuses others of stealing. It’s a shame that they are not willing to accept all the facts, share them with us, and work together so we can all win.

One of the items on the 2020 ballot will be funding for the teachers contract. This comes up every 2 to three years when the teachers Union negotiates a contract with the administration that spells out the terms of compensation. It's true that the State of New Hampshire has a poor method of providing money for education. The majority of funding the cost increase is covered by the property tax payer. I wrote about this on another blog post.

Last year the Budget Committee and ultimately the voters decided that the amount of increase demanded by the Union and agreed to by School Board members was just too much to bear. It was voted down. The result was teachers pay stayed the same as the previous year. Benefits continued but the wage schedule remained stagnant. If it had passed, it would have cost an additional $137,000 for the year.
The proposed wage increase cost for 2020-21 is actually $147,484 . On the warrant they have applied the proposed insurance cost savings of $67,518 to the wage increase to make it appear that it is only a $79,966 increase. It looks to me like they have plowed all the insurance savings into higher wage increases. One of the major stumbling blocks in negotiations has been the cost of health insurance. It has been skyrocketing for all of us and the ZERO deductible, high cost plan that the teachers have been enjoying for years, 82.5 percent paid by taxpayers is considered no longer affordable by many who were forced to accept much less coverage a long time ago.

So it was back to the drawing board in the fall of 2019 as the negotiating teams squared off to craft a new contract. Some relief to the taxpayer was created when a lower cost health insurance plan was insisted upon by the administration. A lot of towns have already gone this route. The new plan has a $1250 single/$2500 family deductible instead of the former zero deductible plan. (Note: The Town of Wakefield employees currently have a $1000 single/$3000 family deductible plan.)
Formerly, the teachers enjoyed the “Green” ZERO deductible plan. If passed, they will use the “Yellow Choice” plan. Note: Only 34 out of 58 employees will be using the lesser plan. The rest will be allowed to keep the “Green” plan due to existing contracts.
This chart gives a quick comparison of the changes in plan coverage.

Here are some savings comparisons. I am using the “effective” rates from the chart below. The SAU has calculated that the total yearly savings should be $67,518.

There is no doubt that the Union considers a higher deductible insurance plan a step backwards in the amount of compensation and they are right. Under this new insurance plan employees will be reaching into their own pockets to cover the new deductibles. However, some of the new expenses will be offset by the employee premium savings listed in the above chart.

It appears that the Union has negotiated enough pay increases to cover any losses and much more. Before I get into that, let’s review some of the other ways that the contract provides additional money to the package. These items are already being enjoyed in the existing contract from prior contract negotiations.
1: On the ninth year of continued employment, teachers get “longevity pay”. It starts at $1200 and increases every year by $150.
2: Teachers get monetary help for “Professional improvement”. Tuition costs and fees for teachers to take classes, (up to 8 credits a year) are funded by the district upon request. The district budget caps a total $45,000 per year total for this purpose.
3: The sum of $450 is available for each faculty member to participate in workshops, conferences or other professional development activities.
4: Once a faculty member has acquired enough credits, they can move to a higher pay column in the salary schedule. This is called a “track change”.
5: In addition to being placed in a higher pay column, teachers who earn a track change shall receive a one-time lump sum payment of $1000.
6: The district pays 100% for long-term disability insurance, up to an amount equal to 66.7% of a teacher’s salary, for each staff member.
7: Teachers who retire after 15 years of service and have reached age 55 receive a one-time payment of $9000 upon completion of his/her final year of service. No more than three retirees per school year may receive this benefit.
8: Paid sick days are provided at 13 days per year cumulative to 90 days. Professional leave is 3 days with prior approval and Personal leave is 3 days for legal, business, household, and family. Under the proposed contract, any bargaining unit member with perfect attendance will receive either a $200 incentive bonus for perfect attendance during one semester or a $500 bonus for perfect attendance for the year.
NOTE: The $500 bonus for a full year’s perfect attendance was in the previous contract.
The $200 bonus for perfect attendance during ONE semester appears to be a NEW BENEFIT.

The above listed benefits complement the teachers’ wages by adding to a total compensation package. The Union and administration don’t talk about these add-ons when they discuss the CBA agreement. Now that we have a good idea of all the additional compensation benefits, let’s examine the proposed wage increases.
Teacher’s wages are paid according to a chart that is clearly spelled out in the CBA. There are 13 steps and 6 columns.
A NEW chart which contains higher numbers is used each year. (see charts below)
Normally, each additional year of employment allows a staff member to go up one step. When they get additional education by taking courses, they can move to a different column.
First, each step increase, which occurs in an approved contract, provides over 3 percent wage increase. When a teacher increases their education by taking approved courses, they get to move to a higher wage column.
Then we have the “salary schedules”. According to a recent flyer called “The WEA’s guide to the new 2020-2022 Teachers Contract” states: “Since 2010, the majority of the salary schedule has increased an average of only 0.06% per year” Question: if that is the case, why are they asking for a 2% increase for 2020-21 and 1.5% increase for 2021-22?

Here is a chart that tells all. The first thing to note is that every yearly step provides over 3% wage increase, even if the chart doesn't change from year to year.
Regarding the increases in the charts themselves, on the far left in purple is the former 2016-2017 wage schedule. To the right of that is the current wage (color black) schedule. When you compare the same spots from the 2016-2017 chart with those in the current chart, you will find that the increase is 0.7%.

Now compare the same spots on the current 2018-2019(black) chart with the proposed 2020-2021(pink) chart and you will see that the chart has increase 2%.  That's almost a 3X percentage (2.85X) increase in the chart!

The 2021-2022 chart increase shows a 1.5% increase.

OPINION: I want the teachers to get a raise. I can’t support wage increases over 8.5% in 2020-21 and over 5% for 2021-22. I believe that 3-4% a year is a fair, sustainable increase and I would support that with my vote. It’s true that going to an insurance plan with a deductible is taking a monetary hit. My answer to that is: “Welcome to the real world. The rest of us are already there."

If you still are concerned that our teachers are “way below average”, below is a summary of actual wage and benefit total for existing staff at Paul School. This data was taken from pages 47 and 48 of the “Wakefield School District Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Proposed School Budget” dated December 18,2019.

43 Teachers Salary AND benefits totals proposed for Fiscal year 2021
(taken from page 47 & 48 of the SAU proposed budget document dated 12-18-19)
6 teachers making over $100,000 ( 1 is grant funded)
2 teachers making over $90,000
11 teachers making over $80,000
8 teachers making over $70,000
8 teachers making over $60,000
7 teachers making over $50,000
2 teachers making over $40,000 (1 is grant funded)
13 teachers are receiving longevity pay
Average longevity pay: $2284
Last two year’s hires:
1 teacher at $36,736 wages + $18,510 benefits total compensation= $55,246
1 teacher at $54,305 wages + $31,608 benefits total compensation = $85,913
1 teacher at $33,468 wages + $32,304 benefits total compensation = $65,772
1 teacher at $51,553 wages + $36,907 benefits total compensation = $88,460
1 teacher at $44,898 wages + $35,213 benefits total compensation = $80,111
1 teacher at $42,904 wages + $34,705 benefits total compensation = $77,609
Average new hires wages: $43,977
Average new hires benefits: $31,541
Last two years Average new hires salary and benefits: $75,518

I hope this information will help residents make informed decisions when they vote. As always, please check my figures and let me know if I you feel I have made mistakes so I can research them and make any needed corrections.

J.M.

13 Comments

  1. Hamlet B. said:

    Arlo would tell us “You can’t have light without a dark to stick it in”….. It would make life so much easier for all involved if everything was black-and-white and there were no more Gray areas. Wakefield residents have always had a sense of propriety and integrity working hand-in-hand. It never hurts to be fully informed and it’s disheartening to say the least to know the folks that I’ve given my vote to would make these shady deals and false representations…. Not all of them mind you but failing to stop a problem looking the other way is never a solution for me…. The best news is that there’s always tomorrow and each new step is in the right direction given proper placement…..

    January 23, 2020
    Reply
  2. Anonymous said:

    “The more opinions we share, the better decisions we make”. But will Mr. Miller ask a member of the teacher union or one of the 4-1 in support school board members to explain why they aren’t liars on this forum? Unlikely.

    “Talking Wakefield”=Criticize and Undermine the School”

    January 23, 2020
    Reply
    • admin said:

      I appreciate your comment and I’m trying to understand it. I have not called anyone a liar. I have asked folks to ponder a question about how much percentage wage increase they consider to be fair. I have stated my own opinion on that. I have posted verified facts about the full contents of the proposed Teachers CBA. A number of these items are not being discussed by the Union or the School Board.

      The Union is currently circulating a flyer with their position on these issues. It gives the salary cost of living adjustment percentages. It does not mention the additional percentages of pay increases available in the steps or the additional benefits included in the contract like “longevity pay”. As you mention, 4 school board members support this.

      The public needs to feel trust towards their elected representatives in order to support their funding requests each year. Failing to tell us all the facts by only showing us what they want us to see is what “undermines” the school. Neither the Union nor several members of the School Board are helping the kids by engaging in these deceptive practices.
      It’s time they started being fully honest with us. If that time ever comes, there will be no further need for any blog.
      I see a lot of people advocating for themselves and I expect that. I hear a lot of “I deserve it”. There are people in this Town who deserve to stay in their homes and have enough food to eat. The recent unsustainable property tax increases are making it increasingly harder for them to do that. I’m advocating for them. I’m asking for reasonable, sustainable tax increases.
      I’m sorry but I can’t see any wrong in that.

      January 24, 2020
      Reply
  3. Anonymous said:

    I appreciate the time and effort you have put into this post. I have a couple concerns:

    1. Your statement “I can’t support wage increases over 8.5% in 2020-21 and over 5% for 2021-22” , while mathematically appearing to be accurate, is a tad misleading. It looks like you took that from only 1 step and track. I’m sure it doesn’t apply to many teachers.

    2. Another quote from your extensive work, “If you still are concerned that our teachers are “way below average”, below is a summary of actual wage and benefit total for existing staff at Paul School must include a comparison too all other districts if your going to imply that we are not “below average.”

    Picking and choosing statistics in the manner that you have is a dangerous game. Laying it all out there in the table is commendable, but only including cherry-picked numbers in your argument is NOT going to fly with those of us who take the time to see what is going on in totality.

    I encourage you, or each of us to look carefully at each line of the tables and do a comparative analysis of other districts and communities.

    Play fair JM.

    January 27, 2020
    Reply
    • admin said:

      Yet another supporter making a frail attempt to put me on the defensive by accusing me of putting out “misinformation”. The problem is, they have provided us with ZERO evidence to back it up. Next they will be accusing me of bashing teachers or hating kids. Making statements like “I’m sure that it doesn’t apply to many teachers” proves that you don’t know what your’re talking about. YOU are the one spreading “misinformation”.This is classic divert, deflect, and distract away from the real issue. It is actually the Union and several School Board members who are doubling down on their smoke and mirror show. People like you are in denial of the facts because they don’t fit your narrative that it’s “only a 2% cost of living increase”. So I’m calling your bluff. I dare you to prove with numbers from the charts that the total proposed pay increase is less than 8% for next year and less than 5% for the year after. Put your money where your mouth is or admit that you were wrong.

      There is nothing dangerous about sharing the WHOLE truth with those who will be required to pay for it. That’s exactly what I have done.
      You only need to look at the recent Union propaganda for some “cherrypicking” of the facts!

      Let’s do some numbers together from several places in the charts:

      FROM THE CURRENT AND PROPOSED CHARTS: (FYI-I have confirmed these calculations with the SAU 101 Business Administrator)
      Current pay: Step 1 Column 1: $33,468
      Proposed pay Step 3 : $36,325 = increase $2,857 = 8.53 percent

      Current pay Step 5 column 3: $41,261
      Proposed pay Step 7 : $44,947 = $3,686 increase= 8.93 percent

      Want the REAL killer?
      MA18 step 11 is now getting paid $54,682
      If they are allowed to jump two steps to step 13 in the new salary schedule, their pay will increase to $63,216.
      That’s an increase of $8,534 dollars in one year.
      That comes out to OVER 15 (FIFTEEN) percent pay increase!
      These percentages do not include ANY other additional benefits like longevity pay and more..

      I don’t care what they pay in Manchester or elsewhere. It’s always your comparisons against our comparisons.
      I’m dealing with FACTS directly taken from the proposed charts from the proposed contract.
      I can only show them to you. If you’re too blind to see them, I can’t help you.

      January 27, 2020
      Reply
      • Anonymous said:

        Thank you, Jim.

        January 31, 2020
        Reply
  4. Anonymous said:

    You clearly don’t understand the differences between steps and contract increase. The differences are misleading in that the proposed contract appears to account for the missed step due to last year’s failed contract. So, yes, there is that increase, but that is because the teachers did not get their step increases or longevity bonuses. Let’s agree that our teachers should be paid fairly, but let’s not use the caps so much. You seem to be very angry…

    January 28, 2020
    Reply
  5. Anonymous said:

    Hello JM,
    In your “OPINION: I want the teachers to get a raise. I can’t support wage increases over 8.5% in 2020-21 and over 5% for 2021-22. I believe that 3-4% a year is a fair, sustainable increase and I would support that with my vote.” How would you suggest accounting for the teachers that are at the top of the step “ladder?” It looks like they get not increase?
    Thanks for all your work1

    January 28, 2020
    Reply
  6. Anonymous said:

    What if teachers actually only worked on the days they’re contracted for period? Maybe that would make everyone happy. The teachers that I know work more than the 180-187 days, they work beyond the school day, and many have second jobs.

    January 28, 2020
    Reply
    • admin said:

      What if we just paid them for those days only? After all, they’re the ones calling it a yearly salary.

      January 29, 2020
      Reply
  7. Anonymous said:

    The video with Kearns was very eye-opening and enlightening. Thank you for participating, JM. You were schooled.

    January 31, 2020
    Reply
    • admin said:

      I’m glad that we were able to make a video that gave the Union’s perspective. I’m the one who is advocating that we lay all the cards out on the table and I put my money where my mouth is by helping them get their message out. I did learn something from the process.
      The teachers who have completed the thirteen steps (it’s really 15 if you consider the last step is a triple increase) appear to be lacking in any kind of cost of living adjustment and I am sympathetic to that. However, they still continue to derive benefit from other areas. I could only dream of an employer that put nearly a thousand dollars a month away for my retirement fund! What I still can’t support is giving the COLA to the teachers who are getting over 3% per year in step increases and more, like longevity pay and other compensation.
      Full transparency will bring public input and support. We’re not quite there yet but we have made some progress in the right direction.
      J.M.

      February 1, 2020
      Reply
      • Anonymous said:

        Kearns’ paycheck that he shared did reflect that the state-mandated Retirement Contribution comes out of their salary, but not nearly at $1000 per month. It was closer to $300 per month. Still not bad, but accurate facts please, Jim. If you were implying the $1000 came from the employer/ taxpayer directly, in that amount, by choice, then that’s not fair.

        Many private-sector employers match employee contributions to 401k plans. People who are self-employed must open IRAs and contribute from what they earn, which comes from their sales of goods or provision of services.

        And while, it is within your rights to not support the ~3% steps, or not to favor the longevity bonuses, let’s look at the big picture of what they are for, as Mr. Kearns clearly stated in the video.

        I encourage all to watch:
        https://vimeo.com/388274693

        February 1, 2020
        Reply

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