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Mamaroneck School Budget: Keep Teams, Cut Life Insurance

Regarding the proposed 2010-2011 budget for the Mamaroneck School system:

The budget that is currently before the voters calls for spending $122,167,894 in the next school year.  This represents a spending increase of 1.22% year-to-year, with a tax increase of 2.08%.  One of the cuts made in order to achieve this small increase is $93,653 from the after school sports programs.  This will result in the elimination of four freshman boy’s sports teams at MHS:  football, basketball, baseball and soccer.  There will also be four (of eight) girls teams cut at the Hommocks:  field hockey, volleyball, softball and basketball.  The savings here amounts to 0.077% of the total budget.

While you might say that the cuts have to come from somewhere, a closer look at the proposed budget shows where the real money is being spent.  Unsurprisingly, salaries and benefits equate to 79% of the total expenditures.  What is surprising, however, is that we are providing life insurance to what looks like every employee in the system as part of that compensation package!  That is not a typo.  Term life insurance policies for everyone from the principal to the janitor are being paid for by the taxpayers to the tune of almost $150,000 per annum (pages 41 and 53, line 9045).

Where does this happen in the real world?  LIFE insurance?  How has this system become so distorted that union members pay 7% of their health insurance costs and are provided with free life insurance while hundreds of kids are unable to have after school sports because we can’t afford it?

On May 18th I will be voting no on this budget as a matter of principle.  Our tax dollars should be spent on these programs for the students, not outrageous benefits for the employees.  And I fully expect the School Board to reconsider, reduce and remove these and other unsustainable benefits in the coming round of contract negotiations.  It is time for the employees of the Mamaroneck school district to join the rest of us in the real world.

Kinnan O’Connell
Larchmont, New York

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26 comments to Mamaroneck School Budget: Keep Teams, Cut Life Insurance

  • Jonathan Sacks

    You are 100% correct, the contractual obligations given to our unionized employees are not in line with the rest of the country. But, how would voting No accomplish anything?

    The Union is unwilling to make concessions without an agreement to extend the contract under basically the current terms. The cost of extending for 2 years will be $4.5mm/year that we can’t afford. Voting No will simply reduce additional programs and teachers to close the $1.1 gap since the unions will not come to the table to make concessions or unilaterally give up anything they feel they are contractually entitled to (i.e. Life Insurance). I suggest you call the Union representatives and urge them to put a meaningful offer on the table that will restore the financial health of the system.

    If you still feel a No vote is required, I and many other people would like to understand what you think the solution is. Where will the money come from if the employees will not step up? Will increasing class size and cutting teachers improve things? Will it somehow send a message? I am not being sarcastic, really, what do you propose as the solution that the board has the power to implement?

  • keep the dialog going

    The concessions of unionized school district workers, that have been made around the tri-state area (and in the neighboring communities of Pelham and Scarsdale) have had a tremendous impact on the ability of those districts to offer palatable budgets. This is a great summary article:

    I share the disappointment of K. O’Connell…it is very hard to accept less for more, but I will most likely vote yes on Tuesday. I can’t punish my children further for what amounts to the greed of others. Given that, I would like to hear what others would like to have seen done differently . In answer to Mr. Sacks, here is what I am stuck on: 1. The one year “savings” at the Hommocks is difficult to stomach (I would have preferred to see $550k taken from the savings accounts than to witness an experimental bandaid at the middle school.) 2. One Administrative cut would have accomplished two things: a shared burden of the reductions that may have helped negotiations with the teacher’s union and the $200k savings could have saved a lot of afterschool sports and clubs (NOTE: there has been no reduction in Admin. since Dr. Fried’s first day of hire until now…(this has been confirmed publicly in numerous budget meetings and looks out of place in light of all the other cuts.)) 3. Some form of concession should be on the table from the unions.

    • Anon E Mous

      In this case, vote with your stomach, not your fear. If you believe, don’t concede. Your children will learn more and a better solution will be achieved.

  • Lost my patience...

    I agree with the above 100%. Three Assistant Principals at the high school with 40% fewer students than were there 25 years ago, when we most certainly did not have 3. Three Assistant Superintendents now, when there used to be one. Academic Coaches who are deemed by their teaching peers to be useless. Any one of these EXTRA salaries would more than take care of the cost of the targeted sports programs.

    I am daily becoming more and more shocked/disappointed/disgusted with the teachers’ contract in this district. Every new factoid that comes out, makes us realize that this is over the edge, into the ABYSS!!! I hope the school board is prepared to toughen up next year with contract negotiations and remove all of this fluff. Not just some of it, ALL OF IT. And if they don’t like it, tell them to take a walk.

    • Anon E Mous

      Expectations of the Board growing a backbone are contraindicated by the recent District Superintendent contract. On Tuesday, mantras of “Wait till next year”, must be foregone; replaced with clearly grading what’s failed by voting No.

      The best way to predict the future is to invent it. – Alan Kay

  • bobo

    Jonathan Sacks,
    You need to vote no to show the unions that the residents have had ENOUGH. Let’s make the next contract negotiations open to: tenure, insurance, health care benefits, etc. While I am sure that some of these “benefits” are protected I also know that some are neogtiable, so let’s negotiate instead of caving to their every demand. You want a 4% raise, we get to decide who gets fired, not going by tenure. See if the union agrees to that.

    • Anon E Mous

      Agreed, bobo.

      And perhaps the District can charge for staff parking, say $300/month. The Board could provide a limited number of parking permits each month based on exceptional performance. Or perhaps there is something else that the contract does not give away.

      Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to believe. – Laurence J. Peter

    • Jonathan Sacks

      It’s worse than that, the union has no obligation to come back to the table in the next negotiation. The Triboro amendment to the Taylor Act that protects public employees and prohibits them from striking mandates that the contract continue under its current form even if it has expired. This is what has happened in Rye Brook that has not had a contract for over 2 years.

      The union knows the citizens are unhappy, saying no sends no message, it will just cut the newest most energetic teachers and increase the class sizes. Please explain how “sending a message” avoids this outcome? I am all ears.

      The union must be engaged to understand the partnership required, yet to this point they do not understand or choose not to acknowledge that we are in crisis. Nor have I seen from the unions a plan that takes us out of this.

      • Anon E Mous

        Please Jonathan, fold up the white flag. Learn from Sun Tzu.

        ‘We often give our enemies the means to our own destruction.’ – -Aesop

  • school supporter

    In addition to the problem of where to make the additional $1 million in cuts that would be required under a contingency budget, a “no” vote does nothing to solve the myriad other issues faced not only by our district but by districts across the county and the state. For a sobering analysis of these issues, I encourage you to read an editorial published in the Journal News on May 9, entitled “Delay on School-Relief Measures Hurts All”: The teachers’ contract may be out of step with the times, but a “no” vote does nothing to advance education in the district or educational reform on the state and national level. I encourage community members to vote “yes” on the budget, and then continue to participate in developing the solutions to the problems we face.

  • developing solutions

    School supporter – “continue to participate in developing solutions”? Who apart from the taxpayers community is developing solutions? The Board who signs a superintendent contract in 2010 that is identical to the one signed with the predecessor 5 years ago? The Teachers Union who wants continuation of a leonine agreement? Albany who is stuck in denial? The new Superintendent who has already announced that his objective will be to be nice with everybody? The Asst Super for business just tenured who has hoarded 6Mio $ in reserves over the past few years as the residents are bleeding (metaphorically)? The only developing solution is to send a strong message that business as usual is not acceptable, and that’s what we’ve had so far.

    • Anon E Mous

      Correct, ‘developing solutions’, only a NO vote, conveys the message that the status quo is not acceptable and that now is the time to follow a new road.

      ‘Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.’ – Laurence J. Peter

  • Elizabeth

    Does Anon E Mous have something other than Bartlett’s Book of Quotations?

    • Emmy

      BRAVO Elizabeth – I couldn’t agree more w/ your point!!

      Yes – he’s funny at times but it’s getting a bit much….

      • Anon E Mous

        Sorry ‘Emmy’, we’re unlike taxes, which have gotten quite a bit much, but not at all funny; a damn shame.

        ‘It’s getting so that children have to be educated to realize that Damn and Taxes: are two separate words.’ – Unidentified

    • Anon E Mous

      Sorry Elizabeth, don’t have Bartlett’s Book of Quotations; but do have eyes peering into to the future and the values I’ve been taught by ‘teachers’ I remember.

      ‘Imagining things as if they could be otherwise.’ – Maxine Greene

      • Emmy

        So basically, you’re relentlessly insatiable?!!

        “there is nothing relentless or insatiable that is basic”
        - Walt Whitman

        • Anon E Mous

          No. ‘Emmy’, the relentlessly insatiable are the tax collectors. Some others are satisfied with less. :-)

          ‘Once Confucius was walking on the mountains and he came across a woman weeping by a grave. He asked the woman what here sorrow was, and she replied, We are a family of hunters. My father was eaten by a tiger. My husband was bitten by a tiger and died. And now my only son! Why don’t you move down and live in the valley? Why do you continue to live up here? asked Confucius. And the woman replied, But sir, there are no tax collectors here! Confucius added to his disciples, You see, a bad government is more to be feared than tigers.’ – Lin Yutang

  • Anon E Mous

    We thank those who have written about voting yes in the face of budgetary failure. You are successfully encouraging the rest of us to turn out to the polls on Tuesday to VOTE NO. Thanks again :-)

    A new poll showed that if the election was held today, people would be confused because it is normally held in November.’
    -Kevin Nealon

  • Rina Beder

    Individuals should vote, they should voice their opinions, they should become informed. They should not vote “no” because others vote “yes”. This is the behavior of a belligerent adolescent, not an informed citizen. O.K. Anon E Mous, want to meet, voice your opinion, share your views? Want to know how you can constructively get involved? Happy to sit down and talk. Perhaps this is a crazy notion in today’s world – face to face and open, respectful debate -but it is the type of world I want my children to inherit.

    • Anon E Mous

      Rina, you’ve forgotten our conversations? Oh my :) And did you forget your use of this medium to advertise your views? Well anyway, we’ll be at the polls on Tuesday.

      Join us, those voting no, who very much want your children, all people, to inherit a whole world of respect and not a community where they’re drowning in debt we’ve created.

      Because our children had had the privilege of growing up where they’d raised a lot of food. They were never hungry. They could share their food with people. And so, you share your lives with people.’ – Ella Baker

    • Emmy

      Well said! I respect your candor Rina.

      Anon E Mous – with all of your intellect and opinions and ….dare I say it and suffer the wrath of your quotations??…arrogance…OK, I said it….you can take some advice from others once in a while. A “know it all” knows a lot less than he thinks and far less than others believe.

      Rina makes a lot of really valid, logical points. I’d stand up and take notice of at least some of them. You may even find yourself learning something from a “peer”.

      Vote however you choose, but don’t deprive others from their own freedom of choice and freedom to vote by strong arming your opinions. True leaders in life lead by example, not by imposing their views on others. Those are called dictators and the world has far too many of them past and present.

      • Anon E Mous

        ALL should vote, and elections should be decided by the will of the people, not by those who don’t vote. It’s too bad so few vote given how many fought for the right.

        FREEDOMS of speech and press must be carefully guarded as they are the foundations of our all our freedoms. Ironic though, that the Teachers Union is advertising for people to vote yes; perhaps they’re the ones who realize the contingency budget would impact the union, not education.

        ‘Our elections are free — it’s in the results where eventually we pay.’ – Bill Stern

  • Jonathan Sacks

    The Union is advertising YES because they realize that a contingency budget would impact BOTH the Union and the Students, they do not need to be mutually exclusive. You separate small issues as if there is no way that there is a multitude of truths. Voting NO out of anger and to “send a message” where the message is empty in substance serves no purpose. Supporting our students in a responsible way is the primary objective of both community members and the Unions. Cooperation is required this is not an Us vs. Them. You quote the “Art of War” but this is not a war, it’s a problem to be solved, one that needs to be done with compassion and understanding.

    • Anon E Mous

      Honestly, wasn’t it encouragement that some learn from Sun Tzu, not quotes. Yes, learn cooperation and respect and call it negotiation (which failed) if you like.

      Learn – do not act out of anger. Vote with conviction, not out of fear. Do not put solutions off even another moment, it shows how little has been learned from the current economic situation.

      Not long ago school taxes were approximately 50% of our property taxes. Now, approximating 60%. It doesn’t take a graphing calculator to show the unsustainable failing trend. Next year’s the numbers will be worse for a variety of reasons. Only voting no now can lead us in the right direction; unless you’re considering that commenter who moved to Westport, CT.

      Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein