Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NFT solution: Ignore PSERS, spend reserves, raise taxes

Here is an update of meeting #38:

The meeting began at 6:00pm and lasted until 8:07pm. Time was spent with mediator reviewing both current proposals from NFT dated  August 29, 2011 & Board Proposal of September 7, 2011. The board explained to the mediator why they can not accept the NFT proposal, making sure he had a understanding of the district finances.

The NFT proposal suggested taking money set aside, by the board to pay for Public School Employees Retirement System expenses for the teachers and other employees of the district, to settle the contract.

The NFT suggested that these funds would not be needed because the PSERS Fund investments would not require future increases, however, the latest audit Dec 9, 2011 shows a loss for the PSERS fund of 3.62 %. In fact, the contribution percentage increased from the current 8.65% for employers to 12.36% for 2012-2013 school year.

The NFT further suggested that monies in the District's Capital Improvement Fund could be used to help settle the contract. The board explained that there is $40,000,000 of capital improvement needs and due to Act 1 we have limited ability to float future debt. The board feels that our buildings are very important to our students success.

One of the NFT's other suggestions would require the district to raise taxes. Once again, Act 1 limits the amount the district can raise to $1,900,000. for the entire needs of the district which includes buildings,buses, fuel, salary's, student supplies, etc. Therefore it would be impossible to dedicate any potential tax increase monies strictly to teachers salaries only, however due to current economic conditions it would be hard to find support for a tax increase.

At the insistence of the state mediator, the board agreed to change their position on grievance and drug testing details. After consideration to these proposed concessions, the NFT came back asking for a study on drug testing by a committee of equal members (NFT & Board) to come up with appropriate drug testing to address the issue & cost associated to implement. The committee to formulate resolution for recommendation and adoption.

It was the opinion of the board after discussion with the mediator that the NFT was not serious in negotiating any matters of importance that could lead to a settlement so the session was ended.

There are two tentative meetings set up for 1/12/12 (meeting #39) & 1/26/12 (meeting #40).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The NFT presentation: Facts You Should Check

Earlier today, Board President Ritchie Webb issued the following statement in reaction to the recent NFT presentation titled "Facts You Should Hear" . . .

"Everything you need to know about how the NFT ignores facts and distorts the truth in their presentation is exemplified in the slide “Why it may not come to pass”

  Their very first bullet point notes that fiscal 2011 was an “exceptional” year for investment returns, suggesting that the PSERS actuarial assessments will go down and the impact to taxpayers will be minimized.

  If you have a Jeopardy buzzer to signify a wrong answer, press it now . . .

  FACT: Just a few weeks ago, the employer contribution estimates (percent of payroll) posted on the PSERS website listed the following through 2021:  

2012/2013 – 12.19%
2013/2014 – 16.69%.
2014/2015 – 21.18%.
2015/2016 – 23.66%.
2016/2017 – 24.50%.
2017/2018 – 25.27%.
2018/2019 – 26.24%.
2019/2020 – 26.26%.
2020/2021 – 26.26%  

FACT: If you calculate the contribution above against the current rate of 8.65%, based on an annual payroll of $50,202,220 (assuming no salary increases), by the year 2021, Neshaminy and PA taxpayers will have paid an additional $62.5 million to fund PSERS.

  FACT: Since the time the board calculated these numbers and when the NFT issued its presentation, the state has amended its employer contribution estimates and those numbers HAVE GONE UP, NOT DOWN.

  The following employer contributions are now posted on the PSERS website following their December update:  

2012/2013 – 12.36%.
2013/2014 – 16.75%.
2014/2015 – 21.25%.
2015/2016 – 25.56%.
2016/2017 – 26.26%.
2017/2018 – 26.80%.
2018/2019 – 27.53%.
2019/2020 – 28.04%.
2020/2021 – 27.76%  

FACT: If you calculate the updated contributions above against the current rate of 8.65%, based on an annual payroll of $50,202,220 (assuming no salary increases), by the year 2021, Neshaminy and PA taxpayers will have paid an additional $67.5 million to fund PSERS.

  Despite the NFT’s hopes that the tax impact of PSERS will go down, it is actually heading in the complete opposite direction to the tune of another $5 million.

  The current PSERS employer contribution estimates can be found on page 2 of this document posted to the PSERS website:

  Finally, insurance savings estimated by the NFT are grossly overstated. Their salary estimates do not include retro pay, or the educational movement increases written into their proposals.

  Minimal savings result from retirees since they continue to receive free health care and a $27,500 retirement bonus.

  If the NFT had given up their demand for retro payments for the last four years and also education credits, then we are closer to settling a contract. However, if not, then this presentation was all smoke and mirrors."    

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Webb challenges Boyd to go public with information

In reaction to comments posted on Facebook by teachers’ union president Louise Boyd following last night’s 37th negotiation session between the NSB and NFT, school board president Ritchie Webb said he is “tired and frustrated with the constant half-truths and blatant misinformation being spread by union leaders, especially Ms. Boyd.”

In her statement last night, Louise Boyd claimed that the NFT presented an “extensive fact-laden explanation” which revealed “ready sources of money” the board could use in negotiations. She also accused the Board of manipulating PSSA scores, and said that the Board refused to answer NFT questions and simply terminated the meeting.

Ritchie Webb refuted the union leader’s claims of available funding with the following clarification:

“ [AFT representative] Mr. Gould presented what I call HOPE Accounting. He suggested that the PSSER’s Fund was doing better and that their investments should reduce future increases.

He insinuated that the Board, if we wanted, could take the $ 4,000,000.00 we put aside for PSERS and give it to the NFT. He said this despite the fact that on November 22, 2011, our contribution rate for next year increased from the state projection of 12.19 percent to 12.36 percent. Our current rate is 8.65 percent.

I HOPE he is correct long term, because we are headed for disaster if the states projections are accurate.”

On the matter of PSSA scores, Webb said:

“I have seen two studies using the PA DOE [Department of Education] data. The first study used Math, Reading, Science, and Writing scores to show that our ranking in the state is 245th.

The second study, which was not as detailed, only used Math and Reading. This data set ranked Neshaminy 197th out of 500 school districts in the state.

Both studies showed a significant drop in scores from previous years. Both studies rated Neshaminy 9th and 10th in Bucks, respectively. On top of that Neshaminy High School has not made AYP in over seven years.

I think most reasonable people would conclude that all this data does not shine a positive light on the NFT. However, Louise and company wanted to make PSSA results the bully point of the night.”

Mr. Webb also gave an example of the kind of half-truths the NFT uses to cloud the truth about the district’s finances:

“They suggested that our payroll went down in the past four years, something on which we agree, because we reduced employees, however, our retirement costs and other expenses went up more than our payroll went down.

The bottom line is nothing was presented by the NFT that would allow us to move forward. All they accomplished last night was to use the same bullying tactics that make negotiations much more difficult than they should be.

I can only imagine how difficult it must be for our administrators to deal with the NFT leadership on a daily basis.”

Webb concluded his comments about last night’s meeting with the following statement:

“Time and time again, Louise Boyd and the union leaders have made outrageous and misleading statements to discredit the Board while giving false hope to the rank and file. If the teachers want to let her get away with this, that’s their choice. But quite frankly, I’m getting tired of it.

Louise has no intentions of negotiating and will just continue to put a cloud on everything and try to confuse issues; these meetings should be televised. The Board has been very open and thorough; our presentation November 22, 2011, opened our books for all to see. We are confident everything shown then is completely accurate, and nothing presented last night changed my mind.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Board doesn’t see any significant change in NFT offer

Meeting #36 lasted 90 minutes, with the mediator spending the first 20 minutes with the NFT, and the final 70 minutes with the Board’s Negotiation Team.

The mediator presented the NFT’s counter proposal which included the following highlights:
• Full reinstatement of salary steps
• 80% of retroactive pay (instead of 100%)
• As of 7/1/2012, Masters Equivalency (MEQ’s) courses will be approved by joint committee equally represented by district staff and federation members

After flatly rejecting the offer for 80% of retro pay, the Board did agree to carefully review and consider the NFT counter proposal but noted they did not see any significant change in the NFT’s position.

Both sides agreed to further talks on December 6th and December 14th.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Webb: NFT claims of uncommitted funds are "out of a hat"

NSB Press Release Uncommitted Funds 10202011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New round of talks scheduled

Representatives from the School Board and NFT will meet on Tuesday, November 1st at 6pm for further negotiations.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Clarification to yesterday's update

The following supplement to last night’s Board statement will provide clarification to the modified proposal put forth by the Board during yesterday’s meeting with the NFT.

After careful consideration of the cost factors involved, the Board offered to accept the insurance plan requested by the NFT, Customized PC-20/30/70, in exchange for a 15% premium contribution to be paid by the certified staff. The cost of this plan is actually less than the PC-20/30/70 plan the Board proposed on July 18th.

Assuming a 15% contribution by the teachers, the savings to the District is over $4 million for the first year, and will continue to yield significant savings every year thereafter. The 15% contribution would be consistent with the rate paid by all other district bargaining units, and existing retirees would be required to pay this contribution. Future retirees may obtain insurance coverage if they pay 100% of the premium.

The Board also offered to reinstate teachers for education credits not recognized over the past three years. The one-time cost of this expense will be approximately $2 million. Again, this is for education credits only, not service steps.

By recognizing education credits, the Board is looking to help the younger teachers in a way that will reaffirm our commitment to their valued service. Beyond this point, however, the Board will no longer recognize MEQ credits.

The combination of these two moves provides the NFT with some concessions they are looking for, and tax payers will benefit from the net-positive impact that will result from the much-needed savings from the high cost of health care premiums.

All other aspects of the Board's July 18th proposal remain in place.

This is just one step in the process to resolving this contract impasse, but it is an important development that we hope union leaders will share enthusiastically with their membership.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Board proposes changes to contributions, ed credits

Meeting #35 lasted 3 hours, 5 minutes. The two parties did not meet face-to-face but instead the mediator acted as a go-between.

After confirming it could not accept the NFT’s recent proposal, the Board proposed to accept the NFT’s requested health plan of choice, Customized PC-20/30/70, provided the NFT members contribute 15% toward their premiums. The board also proposed to pay column movement (education credits, not retro pay) bringing the certified staff up-to-date. With the estimated cost of compensating the younger teachers to be $2 million, the Board would use savings from insurance contributions to subsidize this added expense.

The Board is continuing to negotiate from its 7/18/11 proposal and is using that as the basis for its ongoing negotiations.

Once again the NFT has questions regarding cost projections. The mediator will meet with finance representatives from both groups to qualify the numbers.

No new meeting has been set at this time but one will be scheduled following the meeting between the mediator and the finance representatives.

Monday, August 29, 2011

NFT offers revised verbal proposal

Meeting #34 began at 6:45pm and lasted 2-1/2 hours. At the request of the state mediator, Board President Ritchie Webb and NSB attorney Chuck Sweet met with union leader Louise Boyd and NFT attorney Tom Jennings to review the findings of the AFT’s Washington, DC-based Research and Information Director. As this portion of the meeting ended, Mr. Webb reviewed the data with the rest of the NSB negotiating team while the representatives from the NFT took a 50 minute caucus before returning with a revised verbal proposal.

Mr. Webb requested the revised proposal be put into writing so that the information could be shared with the rest of the school board. The NFT indicated they would submit a written proposal sometime this week.

As has been Board practice throughout these negotiations, details of the NFT revised proposal will be shared with the public once it has been formalized in writing, and after the details have been vetted by the Board. Until that time, the Board will not comment on the contents of the latest counter offer.

Both sides agreed to meet again on Wednesday, September 7th at 6pm.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Talks remain civil but little progress reported

The 33rd session between the NSB and NFT earlier this evening lasted 2-1/2 hours. Board representative Ritchie Webb and attorney Chuck Sweet spent most of the evening in face-to-face discussions with NFT president Louise Boyd and their attorney, Tom Jennings. The state mediator was not present for tonight’s meeting due to a prior commitment.

Although there isn’t much progress to report, the dialogue between both parties remained civil and direct. Once again the NFT had no counter to the Board’s July 18th proposal. No concessions were made by either side this evening and no tentative agreements were reached, but Mr. Webb did confirm the top priorities including reiteration of the Board’s position that there would be no retroactive pay.

Conversation focused on health care, contributions, retirement perks, longevity, and other financial issues. The union acknowledged they are now using the assistance of an AFT (American Federation of Teachers) representative from their research and information service department to help analyze the numbers. The NFT also acknowledged that the step costs reported by the Board at last week’s meeting were more accurate than theirs, but further refinement is necessary.

Another meeting has been set for Augst 29th, which allows the Board time to gather information requested by NFT relative to contract costs. The state mediator will be available for this meeting.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Talks yield some progress

Meeting #32 lasted for 2 hours, 20 minutes, and although there were no major breakthroughs, Board President Ritchie Webb referred to the meeting as "positive."

The NFT did not offer a counter proposal at tonight’s meeting, so the Board’s negotiation team asked to review its last proposal of July 18th with an emphasis on the costs of the proposal and the savings that would be necessary to approach an agreement. Mr. Webb stressed that we do not want a contract we cannot afford.

The mediator indicated the NFT wanted to be placed on the salary steps they would have received in accordance with their previous proposal. The NFT believed the cost of this move would be $1.2 million. This differed significantly from the Board's estimate which placed the costs in excess of $4.8 million for the 2011-2012 school year. Further review of this topic is needed.

It is important to note that this was not a new proposal but rather a review of the Board’s previous offer.

Both sides agreed more meetings were warranted, and the next session has been scheduled for this Monday, August 15th.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Proposal update

Below is a salary schedule that Mr. Webb sent to the mediator, Mr. Cairns earlier today. This is a supplement to the July 18, 2011 proposal to the NFT which details the salary matrix through 2014. Although the Negotiation Team advised the NFT that the proposed salary increase was 1% across-the-board, the Board only provided the salary schedule numbers for the first year of the proposal and wanted to verify the last two years before issuing them.

The next negotiation session will take place on Thursday, August 11th.

Board Proposal 71811 - First Year 2011-12 Salary Schedule v2

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New date set for talks

The Neshaminy School Board today confirmed that the next negotiation meeting with the NFT will occur on Thursday, August 11th at 6pm.

In an email to the State Mediator, John Cairns, Neshaminy solicitor Chuck Sweet said that “In order for "meaningful negotiations" to occur, which both parties sincerely want, the Board and the community can only anticipate a meaningful response from the NFT to the comprehensive Board counterproposal of July 18, 2011. There will have been ample time for such a response to be developed.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Latest proposal to NFT

Board Proposal to NFT - Final - July 18, 2011 (D549988)

NFT to Board: "You have insulted every teacher"

Meeting #31 lasted little more than a few minutes as the NFT attorney, Tom Jennings, proclaimed that the Board's latest offer has "insulted every teacher," and he added that the union would respond in an "appropriate manner."

Board president Ritchie Webb asked to schedule additional dates for talks but the NFT refused to consider his request.

No further meetings are scheduled at this time.

Board unveils new offer

Prior to this evening's negotiation session with the NFT, the Board released the details of its latest contract proposal to the media. A copy of the new offer was sent to the NFT earlier in the day.

Below are the highlights of the new offer. A copy of the new proposal itself will be posted tomorrow.

Stay tuned for an update later this evening on the status of tonight's negotiation session.

Highlights of NSB Offer to NFT 07182011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Board rejects latest NFT proposal as "too expensive"

Meeting #30 between the Board's Negotiation Team and representatives from the NFT lasted about 30 minutes this evening.

The Board formally rejected the NFT proposal of May 31, 2011, stating the proposal was too expensive. The Board asked for additional time to prepare a counter proposal with the assistance of the newly formed Neshaminy Citizens Contract Advisory Committee. It was mutually agreed by the NFT and the Board to cancel this Thursday's (June 16th) meeting and reschedule for either the 18th or 19th of July depending on availability of the Board's council.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

NFT announces new offer

Below is the NFT's latest counter proposal which was introduced during a union press conference last night, May 31st, at 8:30pm. The offer was emailed to the Board's attorney later that same evening at approximately 10pm. Nft Proposal 05312011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Board, NFT to meet twice in June

Representatives from the Board's Negotiation Team and NFT leadership will continue talks on Monday, June 13th, and again on Thursday, June 16th. Both meetings will begin at 6pm.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Board Formally Withdraws Contract Offer to NFT

Neshaminy School Board President, Ritchie Webb, announced today that the three year contract proposal to the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT), first offered in 2008, was being withdrawn. Webb stated that this action leaves the Board free to make a new proposal effective July 1, 2011 and thereafter.

Teams representing the Board and NFT have met 29 times since January 2008, with the most recent meeting being February 15, 2011. No progress has been made in reaching a new agreement.

“This is not a moment for rejoicing as it signifies that our negotiations with the Teachers’ Union have not progressed, but we must continue trying to move forward,” Webb said.

The Board President continued, “We cannot allow lack of progress to discourage us from talking with union leadership. Our students and tax payers are depending on us to negotiate a reasonable and affordable contract, and this Board remains committed to ongoing, good faith negotiations.”

The Board’s initial offer from 2008 was highlighted by an average 3.1% salary increase, employee health care contributions ranging from 10%-12%, elimination of Master’s Equivalency (MEQ) certificates, increasing the number of work days from 188.5 to 190.5, lengthening the work day from 7.0 hours to 7.5 hours, and removing the $27,500 retirement benefit.

The Board’s offer was later amended to include an increase in the health care contribution rate to 15% - 17% based on the NFT’s desire to maintain a high cost, top tier insurance plan.

Mr. Webb also confirmed the Board’s intention of seeking public input into the formation of the next contract offer. “The people have shown tremendous desire in helping the Board determine what is reasonable and affordable. Since they are the ones paying for all this, I see no reason why we shouldn’t consider their suggestions.”

The Neshaminy School District is facing an $11+ million deficit for the 2011/2012 school year as the Board considers cuts to student programs and staff layoffs to close the gap.

Webb restated his desire for transparent negotiations with the NFT moving forward, saying, “By videotaping our talks and allowing news reporters into the room, we can remove any and all doubt as to who said what. Maybe then some real progress can be made.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

NFT rejects meeting requests

Last week the Board learned that our recent requests for additional negotiations were rejected by the NFT for reasons not yet explained to us. Unfortunately the Board and the public have been kept in the dark about this.

We are making the public aware of this situation so that they may feel reassured that the Board is committed to ongoing dialogue with the leadership of the Teachers Union, and we will continue to make every effort to schedule further negotiations with them.

Below is an email from the Board’s attorney, Chuck Sweet, to the State-appointed mediator, John Cairns, stating our displeasure with this most recent development and also reasserting the Board’s position with respect to a new collective bargaining agreement.


From: [Chuck Sweet]
To: [John Cairns]
CC: [Ritchie Webb]
Date: Sun, 1 May 2011 21:38:19 -0400
Subject: NFT negotiations


I just learned on Friday, April 29, 2011 that you had, on six (6) occasions since my letter to you of March 3, 2011, offered in writing to Tom Jennings and NFT specific bargaining dates, beginning with March 17, 2011 and continuing with five (5) additional dates in April, 2011. The most recent of those dates was April 27, 2011. Unfortunately, you did not copy me on any one of those e-mail messages. You have also not communicated with me by telephone or e-mail since March 3, 2011. Also unfortunately, the NFT did not accept any one of the dates that you offered.

The NFT President, Louise Boyd, makes a great show of saying that she and the NFT are available at any time and any date to negotiate with the Neshaminy School Board. That is obviously not a true statement.

We have been bargaining continuously with the NFT since January, 2008. We are well into our fourth year of negotiations. The three (3) year proposal made by the Board to the NFT in January, 2008 will expire soon. It was always, by its terms, not retroactive to any date prior to its mutual acceptance and ratification by both parties. That has always been quite clear to the NFT and to the taxpayers. Any future offer from the Board to the NFT will only be for a prospective term, that would be defined in a new written offer.

I am available to you for communication, whether by e-mail, telephone, or otherwise.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Overview of Insurance Costs

During the April 12th public meeting, our insurance broker presented information regarding insurance costs for employee health care. Below is the unedited presentation from Mr. Gulla, and it is based on the information recently obtained from our insurance provider, International Blue Cross (IBC).

Before reading this presentation, please make note of the following:

• The plan noted on slides #3 and #4 (PC 15) is the current plan enjoyed by virtually all of our teachers
• The plan noted on slides #5 and #6 (PC 20/30/70) represents the Board’s proposed plan
• The plan noted on slides #7 and #8 (PC Customer 20/30/70) is an alternative plan suggested by IBC
• The first slide for each plan (slides 3, 5 and 7) are based on current costs, while the second slide for each plan (slides 4, 6 and 8) are based on our “first look” estimate on next year’s costs as provided by IBC
• The slide for each plan has five (5) columns representing:
* Tier (type of coverage)
* # of Subscribers (current or retired teachers who have this coverage)
* Board Cost (monthly cost of coverage at 100%, with no employee contribution)
* 15% = 11.25% (What the monthly employee contribution would be at 15% if they were in the 25% income tax bracket, when you factor in the pre-tax value per IRS code)
* 17% = 12.75% (What the monthly employee contribution would be at 17% if they were in the 25% income tax bracket, when you factor in the pre-tax value per IRS code)

• Not included in this presentation is the cost of the teacher opt-out benefit at 37%, which will total $1.34 million in 2011
• If the NFT had agreed to the Board’s proposal of 17% insurance premium contributions with the PC 20/30/70 plan along with a reduction in the opt-out benefit down to 25%, the District would have saved approximately $3.96 million this year

NSD Teacher Premiums and Contributions 4-12-11

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An open letter to our teachers

An Open Letter to Our Teachers

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Highlights from Meeting #29

Representatives from the NFT and Board met for negotiating meeting #29 this past Tuesday to discuss the health care plan information obtained from our insurance provider by the solicitors representing each side. Since our provider, International Blue Cross (IBX), did not supply us with the information until Monday evening, both parties require additional time to review the data.

It is worth mentioning that nothing provided by IBX contradicts what was reported by the Board during previous discussions, and this should serve as validation that the Board has been completely transparent with the NFT throughout these negotiations.

Before the meeting concluded, Board President Ritchie Webb reaffirmed the Board's position that teachers must contribute no less than 17% towards monthly health care premiums at this time in order for the district to confront its financial and educational challenges. Since health care/benefit costs are our single greatest expense, the Board is unable to consider other aspects of the collective bargaining agreement until this issue is addressed.

The NFT offered no concessions regarding health care premiums during this meeting, nor did they give approval for the Board's proposed self insured Rx plan which would offer substantial annual savings to the district with no benefit impact to our employees.

The State mediator will be contacting both sides to schedule another meeting in the near future.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Healthcare remains a major issue

Negotiation meeting #28 took place earlier today as Ritchie Webb and solicitor Charles Sweet met with Louise Boyd and NFT attorney Tom Jennings. The state mediator, Mr. Cairns, was also present for this meeting that lasted approximately 90 minutes.

Healthcare continues to be one of the major issues that separates the two sides. Mr. Sweet and Mr. Jennings agreed to jointly meet with our healthcare providers to obtain specific financial information. Hopefully this will clarify our costs and coverages, and will help bridge the gap that divides us.

Mr. Cairns requested that we meet again on February 15th, using the same format to review Mr. Sweet's and Mr. Jennings' findings.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Talks rescheduled

Today's negotiation session has been rescheduled to next Wednesday, February 2nd.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New round of talks scheduled

After having separate meetings with the state mediator, both the Board and NFT have agreed to another negotiation session on Thursday, January 27th. In an effort to facilitate open dialogue, each side will be represented only by their respective president and attorney along with the mediator.