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Wowzer – Norwalk needs at least $4 million more for BOE next year

Norwalk BOE finance committee 010313 028

Norwalk Board of Education members look at documents as they consider the budget last January. The process for figuring out 2014/15 has already begun, as officials work to plan ahead an unprecedented three years.

NORWALK, Conn. – The bill is coming due on Norwalk Public Schools – just to keep things on an even keel, next year’s budget will be $4 to $5 million higher than this year’s Board of Education budget, sources say.

It’s the elephant in the middle of the room during this political season: no one seems to be mentioning it.

Board of Education Finance Committee Chairman Mike Barbis confirmed the rumored dollar amount.

“If you look at our contractual obligations, you look at the inflation in health care insurance costs and provide the same services as this year, yes, the increase would be at least the amount you quoted,” he said in an email.

Contractual obligations is a reference to the pay raise due to Norwalk teachers next year. That’s after a wage freeze  this year in the Norwalk Federation of Teachers contract.

“We got a hard freeze in 2013/14 from NFT. All other Norwalk unions had already given hard freezes,” BOE member Sue Haynie explained in an email. “The ‘rebuilding’ we did last year could not have happened without the freeze of the $2.8 million (Chief Operating Officer) Elio (Longo) had budgeted for NFT salaries/step in 2013/14 – things like the adding back of intramural sports, librarians, intervention aides, etc. Given that we had just gone through three really tough budgets years one right after another, that we had just lost a good superintendent and that we were in an interim situation yet again, which is never a good position for a district to be in, the ability to put back librarians, intervention specialists, etc. was important.”

NFT President Bruce Mellion said the wage freeze may not have been a good idea.

“We were within a heartbreath of getting the whole deal,” he said. “It imploded at the last moment. I think at the end it will prove to be more expensive this way than it was the other way. I have no question about that at all.”

That’s the way Democratic mayoral candidate Harry Rilling understands it, Rilling said. If the teachers had gotten their pay raises every year the impact would be lessened in 2014/15, he said.

“Sometimes things are done in political years just to make things look good, and later on you realize that what was done in a political year to make things look good is doubled up on the following year when it’s not a political year,” he said. “People’s memories are short and a lot happens during a political year.”

Haynie, the chairman of the personnel and negotiations committee, disputed Mellion’s account.

“I am not aware of ever being a heartbeat away from a deal or of an implosion at the last minute,” she wrote. “The documents related to the NFT mediation and arbitration, and a lot of the dialog and conversation, is a public record and appears to bear that out.”

She defended the deal she helped broker.

“Mr. Mellion’s Last Best Offer for contract years 2013/14 and 2014/15 was $4,591,179 or 5.96 percent,” she wrote. “The BOE got the hard freeze, zero increase, in 2013/14; the arbitrators gave Mr. Mellion what he asked for in Year 2, which was a 2.5 percent  ($1,927,009) raise in salary and Step value of another 1.73 percent ($1,332,085)  totaling  $3,259,094 or a 4.23 percent increase for the two years. ($1.3 million less than Mr. Mellion’s LBO)  Also, the BOE  got a $766,000 cost offset for Insurance for 2014/15.”

Mayor Richard Moccia did not respond to an email requesting comment.

How would Rilling deal with it if he is elected?

“A contract is a contract,” he said. “It’s got to be. Unless there’s agreement to look for other ways. If there’s a crisis that needs to be dealt with, you bring the unions to the table and you talk.”

18 comments

Norwalk Lifer November 3, 2013 at 5:16 am

Okay, so if Sue Haynie did her job and based her negotiations on a forecast, then why is there a short fall, operative words in my question “Did her job”?

Seems to me there is more incompetence here than in the NEON saga.

And it’s being glossed over.

Harry Rilling has it right; there should be a return to the table to address the short fall, but this time, make sure the Mayor is in the room, so that incompetents like the HR manager in City Hall can’t “close a deal” by shoving a table at the union leaders.

You get farther with a little more respect; reality is always reality, but when you play hardball like these people obviously did, then the reaction is equal or greater.

If we cannot afford to make the increases, then use the math to negotiate and not the emotion.

Regards
Norwalk Lifer

Norwalk Lifer November 3, 2013 at 5:44 am

And it was a 4 million short fall the previous year:

http://norwalk.dailyvoice.com/opinion/letter-norwalk-boes-shortfall-misunderstood

But bad reporting right? it was only 2.6 million, Mr. Chiaramonte cited Sal Corda’s bloated budget and how the Republicans cut it to the bone. Meanwhile Sue Haynie and Jack were sidestepping the union representation and trying to negotiate directly with the teachers.

That’s how you build trust and honor among thieves? Ridiculous!

As another famous “Republican” once said; fool me once shame on you, fool me twice,,,er, can’t get fooled again.

I think that was concerning WMD’s in Iraq.

Regards
Norwalk Lifer

Don't Panic November 3, 2013 at 6:22 am

With no major storm this year, everyone should be keeping an eye on how much is left in the DPW budget. I bet there will be some coins to be found in those couch cushions this year.

marjoriem November 3, 2013 at 8:24 am

Sue Haynie has bragged about winning the negotiations with the teachers. Looks to me like the teachers won. Lisa Thomson, where are you now? I was right all along about Haynie’s negotiations. She has successfully bankrupted the city or caused devastating cuts to this school system. The truth has finally emerged!

Daisy November 3, 2013 at 8:30 am

They don’t NEED 4 Million – they WANT it. According to my reading of polls, Moccia will be re-elected, which means they’ll get what they NEED and can cry about what they want, the way the rest of us do.

Norwalk Lifer November 3, 2013 at 8:34 am

Dear Marjoriem:

That’s the issue, you don’t “win” negotiations, you manage negotiations, when both sides see a fair and equitable resolution, that’s a win.

Now we see the real story; they need another 4 million, and again, Jack Chiaramonte took great pains to reduce the “4 million rumor” to 2.6 mil during his tenture, while taking swipes at the teachers, the unions, the former Super, I would argue he would have taken swipes at the cafeteria workers if he thought it would get him sympathy.

The simple fact, is as Bill Clinton stated during the Democratic National Convention; “it’s called ARITHMATIC”

Regards
Norwalk Lifer

Lisa Thomson November 3, 2013 at 8:42 am

Statements about fully or not fully funding budgets is like asking the question how long is a piece of string? Instead, all stakeholders – educators, taxpayers and parents and BOE members needs to understand where the majority of increased costs are coming from – insurance premiums.

It’s not about respect – it’s about math. Regardless of which side of the argument you sit on – in a profession with lots of employees and increasing healthcare premiums, we have three choices based upon the way education is funded in the state of CT:

1) Raise taxes at a rate disproportionate to the value of homes
2) Reduce the number of employees
3) Negotiate 1960s work rules to reflect 21st century technology capabilities

Personally, I’d vote for option 3. If educational and union leaders here in Norwalk (and nationwide for that matter) would redefine the classroom as we know it, we might better balance adult compensation and individualized student learning at a more cost efficient level. Two intellectual giants Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have advocated this for years.

M Allen November 3, 2013 at 11:07 am

Next CBA – Defined contribution healthcare, defined contribution retirement. Fix the costs, fix the problem. Time to welcome the city unions to the real world.

marjoriem November 3, 2013 at 11:47 am

Will your school be closed? ….. because it isn’t about want, it is about need. The 4- 5 MILLION will fund the status quo. It is about the 4.3% raises the teachers will get! thanks to Haynie. Insurance? Lisa, did Haynie lose that in arbitration too? Teachers do pay a %age of their insurance. It could have been a greater percentage had Haynie been aware of what she was doing. Haynie also lost on class size. Why did she lose on salary and insurance? Because she was greedy. She wanted teachers to go without any raise for two years in a row. The arbitrator never ever awards that. After this election, steel yourself for SCHOOL CLOSINGS!

M Allen November 3, 2013 at 11:55 am

Oh noes, the scare tactic of school closings. How well its used. And the 4-5 million will fund the status quo? I think you should probably start looking beyond the status quo and find a new paradigm. Start working smarter, not harder. It’s amazing how that works in the private sector. Innovate. Because your status quo isn’t cutting it anymore.

marjoriem November 3, 2013 at 11:57 am

Oh, and Haynie is still bragging about putting back the intrmural sports, library clerks, intervention aides, etc. knowing full well that they would be cut in one year. How cruel!!!!

marjoriem November 3, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Start working smarter is exactly right, M Allen. Stop Haynie from creating more hatred and more problems! That would be the first smart move! As for school closings, ARE YOU READY TO HEAR ME SAY ” I told you so?”

Tim T November 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Don’t Panic
The polls where 76 Percent are voting for Moccia. I know some will blow the polls of as unscientific however with that much of a lead it’s clear Moccia will be mayor for the next 2 years.

Tim T November 3, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Daisy
You are so right. If somehow Rilling aka the friend of the unions was elected, which is looking less and leas likely. The teachers union would get the 4 million and the police union would get 4 million and the fire department union would get 4 million and the DPW union would get 4 million and the TAXPAYER would get a TAX INCREASE to pay for all the 4 millions.
HOLD ONTO YOUR WALLETS.

EastNorwalkChick November 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I’d love to have a link to these polls saying that Moccia is at 76%….wonder if it’s the un-scientific one from the The Hour….maybe it’s the same ones that had Romney winning by a landslide!

Tim T November 3, 2013 at 6:56 pm

EastNorwalkChick
Actually the one from the Hour never has Romney winning by a landslide. The poll is on the Daily Voice. Like I said some will just blow this off as un-scientific, as that is very typical when one does not like the results.

M Allen November 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm

This is a little off topic, but really no other place to put it: Does anyone know how the city’s various health plans will be categorized under the Affordable Care Act? Will they be classified as “Cadillac Plans” and thus subject to the tax? And if so, who will be forced to pick up that tax? The City or the employee?
.
“A 40 percent excise tax will be assessed, beginning in 2018, on the cost of coverage for health plans that exceed a certain annual limit ($10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for self and spouse or family coverage). Health insurance issuers and sponsors of self-funded group health plans must pay the tax of 40 percent of any dollar amount beyond the caps that is considered “excess” health spending.”
.
http://www.healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/brief.php?brief_id=99

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