Jul 29, 2014

VIDEO: School Board Rejects 'Unaffordable' Arbitration Report

The Neshaminy School Board President Ritchie Webb rejected and criticized the arbitration report received last week.

Neshaminy School Board President Ritchie Webb criticized and subsequently made a motion to reject . The board members unanimously voted to reject the report.

"We had hoped that maybe this time, for once, an arbitrator would make a ruling that considered the well-being of a school district above all other concerns.  Unfortunately, that is not the case," Webb said at Tuesday's school board meeting.

Among other details, the arbitrator's findings would put teachers back on full step, rewards them with 50 percent retroactive pay back to 2008, and gives salary increases ranging from 1 to 2.25 percent, on top of step and credit increases, which Webb said is worth two to three times that much.

He stated that the only real "victories" for the district are the expanded work day to 7.5 hours, and a work year of 190.5 days. However, Webb said that "the arbitrator overlooked the needs of our district and instead appeased the NFT" by rejecting the district's proposal for mandatory drug testing, eliminating the equal say clause, or writing letters of recommendations for the students.

In the report, the arbitrator awarded 50 percent retroactive pay going back to 2008. This, Webb stated, would cost the district about $9.2 million The arbitrator recommended 12 payments of $769,185, but since the district budgets yearly, a little over $3 million would be added to the budget per year for the next three years.

In addition, as requested by the NFT, the arbitrator placed all staff on full step, awarded level credits, which is education credits along with a 1.5 percent salary increase. All of which is actually a 4.2 percent payroll increase over the current year, Webb stated. 

"In dollars that is $2,743,963, plus add that to our easy payment plan and next year’s budget goes up $5,820,702 or now we are short $20 million instead of 14 million," he said.

This, plus retiree, employee health care increases, longevity, the budget "could easily exceed $20 million," Webb said.

"Obviously, if the board chooses to accept this award, it will put our district in greater financial distress than it already is. In simpler terms, we cannot afford it," Webb said.

In addition to the unaffordability to the district, Webb said that there is another thing he doesn't understand about the arbitrator's findings:

"How can an arbitrator, who is an agent of the State of Pennsylvania, issue a recommendation that will force a school district to exceed the inflationary limit set by Pennsylvania law?" Webb asked.

Webb continued by saying that legislators passed Act 88 in 1992 "tied the hands of school districts involved in the collective bargaining process" and enacted Act 1 in 2006, which "limited a district’s ability to raise taxes."

"Think about it -- first they set into motion the law that would benefit teachers’ unions, ultimately raising costs, then they tell us how much we can raise revenue to pay for those costs," Webb said to the public.

"The problem is that Harrisburg has put school districts at an unfair disadvantage against the teachers unions, and they don’t seem eager to undo the situation they created," he stated, adding that the district needs action, change and "people in Harrisburg who are committed to reform."

Webb said that he doesn't have an answer to the question about how long the impasse with the NFT will last, but that the school board will keep "fighting the battle" in Neshaminy and "will not give into unaffordable contract demands that will inevitably lead to even more program cuts than we are currently discussing."

Watch the video above to view Webb's complete statement and motion to reject the report. A PDF of the arbitrator's report is attached under the video for your review.

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