Westerville Begs for Bargaining Reform

The Columbus Dispatch reports on sacrifices made by unionized employees of Westerville City Schools:

Teachers were expected to receive a 1.75 percent cost-of-living increase in addition to step increases this school year under the association’s current two-year contract.

Williams said the members also agreed to delay receiving some of their pay to the next fiscal year, which would shift $1 million in compensation to the 2013 fiscal year.

Starting from a contract that was completely untenable, the union has agreed to “givebacks” which do nothing to address long-term budget issues. The Westerville Education Association deserves credit for some flexibility, but context is everything. In this case, union concessions are a prelude to major tax initiatives:

The variations: a 0.5 percent earned-income tax and $10 million levy; a 0.75 percent earned-income tax and $7.3 million levy; and a 0.75 percent earned-income tax and a $5 million levy. The proposals would generate between $22 million and $25.5 million a year.

Teaching is a difficult job. I don’t think I could do it, and I can’t imagine a salary that would make me try. I have great respect for good teachers… but are Westerville’s compensation rates sustainable? According to public records, 376 Westerville City Schools employees – more than 21% – were paid $75,000 or greater in 2010.

Without a steep tax hike, the Westerville City School District has a bleak future:

Depending on the tax issue board members choose, the district will need to cut from $13 million to $16 million in anticipated expenses to keep the budget in the black through the 2014-15 school year.

Interim Treasurer Steve Huzicko said the district faces a projected $3.1 million shortfall this school year and about $24 million in 2012-13.

This year’s troubles are nothing compared to Westerville’s coming budget disaster. Ohio can’t afford to throw money at local governments any longer, and Washington certainly can’t afford to throw money at Ohio, so what option does the district have? For a taste of the leftist outrage when you suggest pay cuts for the highest-paid teachers and administrators, refer to my extremely cautious Columbus City Schools analysis.

This is what Senate Bill 5 is about. Current privileges granted to government unions make it easy for politicians to promise too much, and much too difficult for taxpayers to do anything about it.

Tax hikes are required to fulfill commitments squeezed out of elected officials, so the unions will fight for higher taxes. Treating good teachers the same as bad maintains the facade of “solidarity,” so that’s what the unions do. Simple reforms to empower taxpayers will limit union clout, so union front groups will continue demonizing reformers as “attacking workers’ rights.”

Hard work, but at least it pays well.

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics and Columbus Tea Party.

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