*Local and frequent speaker at Board of Education meetings Robert Foster emailed this letter to Patch discussing the new teacher contract and proposed budget for the Smithtown Central School District.
On Tuesday evening I attended the Smithtown School Board meeting with a feeling of optimism as a proposal for a new contract with the STA was on the agenda. Unfortunately that feeling was quickly dashed because, as the board has been having endless discussions on how to close the various budget gaps for not only the next school year but the following two years there was no relief to the end included in this budget. I also was taken aback by the fact that with not having a contract for the past two school years it seemed that the board seemed to want to just push through this proposal that has only existed for a few days.
To board member Mr. Saggese’s credit he attempted to have meaningful conversation on proposal. In a previous meeting on the budget he had asked the question of “why can’t the STA meet the community half way in closing the budget short fall." At the meeting on Tuesday he continued that thought with the idea that he was hoping the STA to come with a proposal to cut the salary expenditure for teachers in a way to get the budget in balance. That idea just fell on deaf ears.
One issue that I find extremely odd in this whole process is at no time was there any substantive information on how much in dollars this contract would cost the taxpayers of the district over the next three years. The only information other then the proposal given was that this proposal was in line with the general percentages of increase that other school districts in Suffolk County were agreeing to. With all of the time that has been spent by all in developing budget information in a dollar cost format I have found it very odd that no one in the administration could put together information the impact this contract will have on future budgets.
With the absence of our school administration coming up with any dollars figures I decided to spent a few minutes to do a very rough calculation on how much this new contract is going to cost. What I did was to pick 10 teachers at random and look up their salaries for every year from 2008 through 2011. I then using 2008 as a base year I added up all of the increases that each teacher received to find the impact the last contract had on teacher salaries. That total was about $270,000 or about 13% more than if we just held fast at 2008 levels. Now with about 740 full time teachers on staff a quick multiplication shows that the district had to come up with an additional $20,000,000 over the past three years just to make teacher payroll not counting the retirement obligations. We must remember the last two years of my analysis are years with no contract in place. Also remember as noted at on budget meeting 3 years ago one member acknowledged that were living in hard economic times.
Now looking at what the new contract has to offer. I took the same sampling of teachers and projected what each one will experience in increases with the new contract. That number came to about $146,000 for the next 3 years. In doing that same calculation as before, less 40 teaching positions because of school consolidation and class size increases, I came up with $10,400,000. Please remember this is in addition to the $24,000,000 in salary obligation the STA has built into the salary budget from the previous three years. So using 2008 as the base year and looking out to the 2014 school year there will be total shift from the community’s pockets to the STA of $30,400,000. Also please note that none of my numbers include pension or SSI contributions. On average I believe that would add about 18% to the numbers.
So as you look at your taxes increase and the reserves that district had built up years ago shrink to almost nothing at least we know where it is going.
– Robert Foster