"The only solution to protect taxpayers is to eliminate all exceptions included in Act 1, thus allowing for true voter referendum on all tax increases above the index."
Representative Metcalfe wrote this in his infamous letter to Governor Corbett on Jan 18. Sadly, his statement is only partially correct—and far from the truth.
Although voter referendums do allow taxpayers to vote directly for school budget increases, solving the issue of fiscal stability while continuing to provide a quality education is FAR more complex than a talking point or a political hit piece
Conservative school board members at Seneca Valley are on the job, making educated decisions about our school budget. We understand that current financial problems and associated tax hikes are not related to construction projects, building maintenance or voter referendums:
SALARIES AND BENEFITS, SALARIES AND BENEFITS, SALARIES AND BENEFITS!!!
Is that clear enough? I hope so…
Look at the SV preliminary budget. Benefit costs rise by about 10 percent from last years’ levels. Contrast that with non-salary and benefit costs only rising around 1 percent (less than the ), and you quickly see where the problem lies.
Question: With every school district in the commonwealth downsizing, why are inflation-adjusted salaries and benefits continuing to rise?
Answer: State laws and pensions that support state employee benefits at the expense of our children's education.
Personnel costs are the reason your first-grader comes home with tears in his eyes because his favorite teacher is being laid off. Pension benefits are the reason your senior won’t be able to take the language class she needs to get into her favorite college.
UNION CONTRACTS are the reason you can’t pay your taxes this year because they’ve gone through the roof!
We must break the stranglehold unions have on taxpayers through effective legislation at the state level. Taxpayers are currently paying school employees more, inflation adjusted, every year to do the same job.
Can you imagine if companies did that? They attract talent with market-based compensation. The more qualified candidates competing for a limited number of positions, the less compensation is typically offered.
Pennsylvania certainly has no shortage of unemployed teachers! Ask one of the thousands that were laid off or furloughed last year! What is truly amazing, and not mentioned nearly enough, is that state level reforms could put every single one of them to back to work tomorrow!
Schools are FORCED to accept this nonsense, due to inaction on the part of the state legislature.
We are currently forced to sign contracts that are not market-based, do not take into account financial hardships in the community, and are usually written to benefit ONLY the most senior teachers, who, not surprisingly, are the ones in union leadership positions.
If we didn't, communities would face endless teacher strikes and costly legal battles. Quality of education in the classroom would suffer, which is a sometimes overlooked element when arguing against raising taxes.
Fellow conservative Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin knows this. He faced the same issue in his state. Along with his GOP-controlled legislature, he mandated increased contributions from government employees towards their health and pension benefits among other reforms. Wisconsin showed the way with a plan that has put their schools back in the black and their teachers back to work.
So please, contact your state representative and senator. Ask them to consider the following:
The state legislature must lead the charge on reforms that will lower tax hikes from our schools. Cost-saving reforms are state level issues. Until Harrisburg changes the laws that shape the way schools are run, unions will continue to exploit every legal loophole and gimmick—because that’s what public unions are designed to do.
Tell your elected officials that state employee salaries and benefits are on an unsustainable path and that repeatedly refinancing pension debt is not a long-term solution. It’s kicking the can down the road to our kids and grandkids and Pennsylvanians are sick of it!
Tell them to propose real public employee reforms that eliminate automatic salary increases and COLAs. We must end teacher strikes and simplify contract negotiations.
Most importantly, establish a private-equity based retirement system for new employees and phase out the current state employee pension system. Tell Gov. Corbett to support the legislation, piece by piece, if necessary. Please give conservative school leaders long overdue relief from a mountain of corrupt laws, policies, cronyism and greed.
Do this and I promise school boards like Seneca Valley, which always considers tax hikes as a last resort, are ready to keep your taxes low.
Eric Gordon is board vice president of Seneca Valley School District representing Cranberry Township – Region 5. In an effort to keep the community informed of school-related issues, he has chosen to reach out to his constituents through this blog. The opinions expressed in this blog are his own and are not the official positions of the Seneca Valley School Board. Official communications from the district can be found at www.svsd.net.