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Norwalk BoE delays budget cut vote to consider ongoing negotiation

Assistant to the Mayor Laoise King talks to the Common Council in November. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. — A vote on potential cuts to the Norwalk Public Schools budget has been pushed back a week, pending the results of an ongoing negotiation with the Norwalk Federation of Teachers.

Assistant to the Mayor Laoise King, sometimes called Mayor Harry Rilling’s “Chief of Staff,” is credited with the last-minute glimmer of hope.

The Norwalk Board of Education was expected to vote Tuesday on its 2017-18 operating budget, to give it a final approval. This was expected to include shaving nearly $2 million from the budget approved some months ago, which was built on the assumption that NFT agreed to switch from the NPS “self-insured” system to a state plan, Connecticut Partnership 2.0.

NFT refused and went on to file a complaint with the State Board of Labor Relations. The result is a standoff that BoE member Shirley Mosby, at Monday night’s District B Democrats meeting, called a shameful “blame game.”

At about 11 p.m. Monday BoE Chairman Mike Lyons sent NancyOnNorwalk the following email:

“The Executive Committee and the NFT leadership have been discussing the ongoing budget issues through Mayor Rilling’s Chief of Staff, Laoise King.  We have agreed to table consideration of the final operating budget for 2017-2018 set for tomorrow night’s Board meeting. In exchange, the NFT has agreed to postpone the hearing on its complaint against the Board with the State Labor Board. The budget will instead be considered at a special meeting to be held next Tuesday, June 27, at 7pm (where it will be the only matter on the agenda).

“Tomorrow’s meeting will go forward on all other matters (since it is a colossal agenda even without the budget).

“The Negotiations Committee will meet with NFT representatives in the next few days to make one more effort at negotiating a resolution to our issues (Ms. King will act as mediator).”

 

NPS Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton said at the June 9 BoE Finance Committee meeting that NFT would have to get onboard Connecticut Partnership 2.0 “very quickly” to reverse the budget cuts.

If all the NPS bargaining groups shifted to Connecticut Partnership 2.0 by Sept. 1, “I think there would be some prospect to reversing some of” the budget cuts that were recommended, Hamilton said.

The BoE must approve a budget by June 30.

Comments

15 responses to “Norwalk BoE delays budget cut vote to consider ongoing negotiation”

  1. Danny

    It’s quite simple.

    If the NFT doesn’t accept the 2.0, the budget cuts will take place. If they come to the table and accept the 2.0, but with a twist, it’s my hope the BOE tells them to take a hike.

    THERE SHOULD BE NO ROOM FOR NEGOTIATIONS. I hope the BOE realizes that they have the NFT by the …. well, you know.

    It’s a very simple concept from the BOE – TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, period.

  2. Eileen

    Danny I can tell you have no children in Norwalk school this about the students The Boe is asking the Nft and all other union to take a inferior Insurance and holding the students hostage

  3. Derek

    The union has a signed contract. If the BOE wants something changed from the previous deal then it has to negotiate. Take it or leave It is not how collective bargaining works. There are a lot of problems with unions but when it comes to my children I will gladly overpay to have the best schools. If you don’t like it move ….in this case BOE signed a deal and we should honor it. Make the deal a win..win to make a change.

  4. Mike Barbis

    Inferior insurance???

  5. Patrick Cooper

    Eileen – don’t recall your name posting here recently, nor before, but hello & welcome. I’m certain you cannot defend the comment “inferior” insurance, because you don’t factually know. You might feel so personally, but it’s a group plan. You CAN say it’s a change, or it’s different, and you don’t like changes, nor anything different. Especially when you’re not compelled to do so.

    Derek, same – don’t recall, but hello/welcome. I get your points – true, deal’s a deal: true, parents want the BEST possible education for their kids, but telling people to move? Naw, too far. Dude – what about all the home owning, tax-paying couples with no children, retiree’s, widow’s, who pay into a budget where 52% goes to the schools that does little directly for them. Move? That’s ALL cash and no cost. Think.

    Let’s agree a negotiation is in order. One side represents the entire town/city of Norwalk, all its constituents, and they are elected volunteers to their positions. They are responsible for delivering the absolute best education system they can, completely constrained by the revenue they are provided, by all sources. The current flow is 94% from Norwalk taxpayers. The BOE by town charter MUST balance the budget.

    This BOE is also responsible for managing the unionized labor for 99% of the system (I’m guessing). Their negotiating processes and limits are spelled out by a state legislative body that has effectively bankrupted our state by giving unreasonable benefits (NOT wages) to public unions. Our BOE must use those rules to negotiate with an historically aggressive, politically active local teacher’s union (NFT), who win repeatedly at the game of “contract”. The legacy of Bruce Mellion. Compare pay versus performance Derek – glad you want the best, but really, $35.00 for a subway foot long BMT? Paid for by Norwalk taxpayers.

    But right now, the game is changing at a pace unrecognizable previously. There is virtually no comparable cost that is increasing close to health care. I’ve stated here in prior posts – mine went up 29% this year (I’m healthy). It’s likely to do the same next. Our education budget has increased 5 million per year every year for the last three years, almost all of it going to salaries and benefits, likely most of that to benefits. Our mill rate (TAXES) have gone up by over 12% over the last 4 years while the grand list has shrunk! This formula of unrelenting cost increases without commensurate revenue created out of economic development activity is why we have these issues where we MUST demand that our BOE look for savings.

    Where do you look? Well, education is 52% of the city budget (59% adjusted). Salaries and benefits are 62% of that. If you can save Millions of dollars by asking the largest employee body (NFT) in Norwalk, one who’s total head count would represent less than 1% of the entire city population, to accept a “comparable” insurance plan, saving the district millions, wouldn’t that be fiscally responsible by our BOE? It’s exactly what they did.

    By the way – we are only talking insurance. You got any clue what we pay for pensions?

    I’m past outlining the shenanigans of recent weeks. I do hope both sides can work out a compromise. But the hard facts are coming for public unions. Health Care costs are the spike bursting the bubble. It is an unavoidable asteroid. Good luck.

  6. Donna

    Switching to 2.0 is the right thing for the NFT to do. Not sure why it’s the BOE who’s exploiting the children and not the NFT. Also @Eileen, just because someone doesn’t have a child in the NPS does not mean they’re not stakeholders. Anyone who pays property taxes in Norwalk is a stakeholder. Whether or not I or anyone else has a kid in the NPS is irrelevant to this issue, which is about fiscal responsibility. The BOE originally asked for a 10% increase because of projected insurance claims. No town in the Westport Darien New Canaan Wilton reference group would accept a 10% increase. Why should Norwalk?

  7. Angie

    Can someone explain how the budget is off $2million??? Is it the teachers fault? To my understanding, the teachers are the only ones asked to have their contracts changed. Are any other Groups asked to changed? Or take a pay cut? Or salary freeze? I know first hand that teachers in Norwalk go above and beyond for their students. As a member of the PTA at my children’s school I see it first hand. They buy supplies out of pocket, equipment out of pocket and often personal items for students out of pocket. They don’t have the resources to begin with that surrounding towns do. We don’t have the per student spending that surrounding towns do. How about we stop slamming teachers and learn to work together as we are trying to teach our students.

  8. Steve Colarossi

    The BOE wants to save money by having teachers join an insurance pool which is operated by the State of Connecticut. The State will collect the premiums and then pay any claims from those receipts.
    What could go wrong being insured by the same state that manages the chronically underfunded teachers’ retirement system, performs such precise budgeting it only needs to impose layoffs and unpaid furloughs every other year and gave us the efficiency of the DMV?

  9. Donna

    @Angie, many state and local employees have switched to 2.0, including Norwalk Police. @Steve Colarossi, I don’t see the teachers’ retirement system as underfunded. I see the state and municipal retirement plans as out of step with current economics of the state. The truth is the pension plans are bankrupting the state of CT. Union benefits like healthcare plans are part of the problem. The NFT wants PTA members and parents to conflate the union with individual teachers. The idea that individual teachers will personsally suffer in disproportion to the weight on taxpayers to fund a 10% budget increase is laughable.

  10. Susan Wallerstein

    @ Patrick Cooper You seem to imply we pay for teachers’ pensions through the local property tax funded school budget. Incorrect, please fact check.

  11. Skyler

    Mike Barbis, Why are you commenting on NON when you should be paying attention to the BOE meeting?

  12. An Observor

    It strikes me that over the last few weeks, many of the comments on this issue anger at the NFT insisting on its contractual rights. Many of the comments have the tone of “my insurance was changed without my permission” and “why should they have insurance that is better than mine?” The anger seems to be based on Envy.
    The reason so many people are without equivalent benefits is that so many people do not have a union to protect them. The reason that so many employees of all sorts are unable to protect themselves is that there is nothing to protect them. Unions perform that function. The decline of the middle class and a decline of the working class has paralleled the decline of unions. Rather than attack those that have what you want, wouldn’t it be better to achieve what you want for yourself? Unions are not preventing that. Legislators and employers are preventing that.
    The sort of beggar-thy-neighbor logic that is being expressed plays into the hands of those that want to keep the ninety-nine percent of Americans divided and weak.

  13. Patrick Cooper

    @Susan Wallerstein – I didn’t mean to imply that, nor did I say that, and I take care to be precise, and I do fact check. So if that’s how you read it, my appologies. But surely you are not “implying” that Teacher Retiree benefits are fully funded via their payroll contributions? Are you?

    Can I assume you don’t disagree with any of my other points? You know – the other 99.5% of my comment?

  14. Danny

    @Eileen I wouldn’t want to have children, just on the sole fact that they’d have to face such selfish teachers each day!

  15. Debora Goldstein

    This is a timely article which illustrates the true “costs” of health care, even with group insurance. Insurance isn’t care and premium costs aren’t the measure of the cost of care.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/06/medical-bills/530679/?google_editors_picks=true

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