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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O’Keefe Sting: Job & Family Services Response

After watching last week’s Project Veritas sting video, I contacted officials in Franklin County, Marion County, and Madison County for details. Though I haven’t heard back from Marion or Madison County, here’s the response (in bold) from a Franklin County Department of Job & Family Services spokesman:

Does the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services have a policy regarding the reporting of admitted felonies?

FCDJFS must abide by confidentiality laws for the federal and state programs administered. Since the application was for Medicaid, the Medicaid federal regulations 42 CFR § 431.300, 42 CFR § 431.302, 42 CFR § 431.305, 42 CFR § 431.306 and 42 CFR § 435.945 are the guideline on releasing information about applicants or recipients.

Did Traci Daniels report her conversation with the purported drug smugglers to a supervisor, the Sheriff’s Department, or CPD?

Yes.

If so, to whom did she report the conversation in question, and what measures were taken in response?

She reported this to her supervisor. The supervisor reviewed the situation and tried to gather additional information to take further action and follow up, but there was no address or telephone number provided for contact of this fictitious individual.

What measures have been taken or will be taken as a result of the video posted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szhFgyl589w ?

Franklin County Job and Family Services has interviewed all individuals highlighted in the video to garner an understanding of the entire incident. As a result of the interviews, we have recommended discipline for two individuals.

We are interviewing all front door staff and eligibility screeners to insure a consistent practice and process. Following that, we will also interview all Medicaid staff, including supervisors, regarding practices and processes. These interviews will aid in a gap analysis and help identify areas of weakness. From theses findings, we will revamp our training in this area to strengthen understanding of the allowable activities. All staff will be required to attend the revamped training. Our interviews began July 22, 2011.

If an official response has already been published, could you provide me with a copy or let me know where to find one?

None has been published.

Today The Columbus Dispatch reported the suspension of both Traci Daniels and her supervisor. This follows last week’s report that Job & Family Services workers throughout the state will receive training in response to the O’Keefe video. So long as the training focuses on not assisting professed criminals, it should be a worthwhile exercise!

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics.

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New Albany Begs for Bargaining Reform

The Ohio Education Association (OEA) affiliate in New Albany is serious about cutting costs, and the union is making the tough decisions to prove it.

The proposed agreement would extend the contract through June 2014 and would stretch out a 3 percent cost-of-living raise slated for the 2011-12 school year to 1 percent during the next three school years.

Reduced raises!

Also, step increases – annual salary bumps awarded for education and years of service – would be reduced by 2 percentage points. Steps originally ranging from 4 to 5.4 percent would now be from 2 to 3.4 percent.

About 80 percent of the district’s 329 teachers are eligible for steps. The average step is 3.1 percent.

Even more reduced… other raises?

Quick: name an industry where employees get two types of pay increase, neither of which is tied to merit. If you came up with an answer that wasn’t “public education,” let me know.

To their credit, the union has also agreed to increased health insurance premiums:

Under the proposed pact, teachers on a “single” plan would contribute 15 percent toward health-care premiums, 5 percentage points more than they currently pay. Those on the family plan would remain at 15 percent. Teachers also would pay more for co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses.

With the economy in Franklin County and throughout the country suffering, yet another OEA local crows about reduced raises and a slightly-less-terrific health plan as if we should cheer their sacrifice and cough up some more taxes. While this agreement is a testament to fiscal sobriety compared to what’s happening at Columbus City Schools and Hilliard City Schools, I can’t imagine it wins many converts to the OEA’s cause.

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Columbus Schools See Solidarity, Union Style

Public unions like the Ohio Education Association care about only three things: jobs, children, and the middle class!

“Nothing is more essential than creating jobs and providing high quality educational opportunities for children. But our legislators are ignoring and short-changing these essential functions of state and local government and schools,” Frost-Brooks said.

Follow the above link to the OEA site, and you’ll find a wealth of stories about how awful Senate Bill 5 is – and how awful Ohio’s taxes aren’t. Did you know taxes in Ohio are fair and competitive, with corporations clamoring to live in the house Taft and Strickland built? It’s true; trust the OEA and union-funded leftist groups!

All the union talk of jobs and taxes is meant to obscure a simple fact: public unions get rich by increasing the cost of government. For every Solidarity Fist™ demanding higher taxes to “create jobs,” there’s an opposite hand in the cash drawer. Taxpayers foot the bill, but they aren’t the only ones! Imagine if you were a young dues-paying member of the Columbus Education Association or the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) and you saw this budget chart:

Last week I offered some suggestions for how Columbus City Schools could save money without firing anyone. As of 2010, 1,459 employees – over 17% of the district’s total – were paid $75,000 or more. How many of those folks are union members? What kind of sacrifices have CEA bosses asked the best-paid teachers and staff to make? Have union “leaders” led by example? Since the CEA marches to the OEA’s drum, we can make an educated guess:

What about the OAPSE, also known as American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4? As an AFSCME local, those guys are all about solidarity:

Exit question: how many of the 30 union members on the chopping block at Columbus City Schools will get refunds from the OEA and AFSCME for all the dues they’ve paid?

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Columbus Begs for Bargaining Reform

The Dispatch reports that, with Governor Kasich cutting local spending to balance Ohio’s budget and with reduced bailouts from Uncle Sam, Columbus City Schools (CCS) is planning layoffs.

Columbus Schools Superintendent Gene Harris will propose a $739 million general-fund budget for next school year that would eliminate about 259 staff positions.

Of those, the full-time equivalent of about 38 people would actually lose their jobs. The remaining positions would be eliminated through attrition or by wiping out jobs already vacant.

Earlier this month I discussed how easily the Hilliard City School District could cover a $3.9 million shortfall if teachers and staff paid more than $75,000 were willing to accept serious 10% pay reductions. Of course they can’t, because the local branch of the Ohio Education Association ensures pay cuts stay off the table. Even with firings and program cuts on the horizon, the union (whose only concern is the children, until the children come between the union and its dues) protects the step-increased salaries of senior teachers and staff.

Columbus City Schools would save $13.1 million with the sacrifices Superintendent Harris is suggesting. What if desperate times could be answered by the desperate measure of reducing tenured teachers’ pay?

Balancing the Budget With Sacrifices from the Top

A quick search of Ohio records for CCS lists 8,234 employees as of 2010. Of those, 1,381 were paid between $75,000 and $100,000. What if we assumed none of these employees was paid more than $75,000, and asked each of them to give up 10% of their pay? Let’s even exclude the superintendent’s secretary mentioned in the Dispatch story as “a savings of almost $98,000 a year.”

75,000 x 0.1 = 7,500
1,380 x 7,500* = $10,350,000

* Number corrected 05/16/2011. Thanks to a commenter for pointing out my inability to copy a number from one line to the next!

With the firing axe replaced by a salary hatchet, we’ve saved CCS $10,350,000 a year. What if we included Superintendent Harris (paid $185,911.96 in 2010) and the other 77 CCS employees who were paid more than $100,000? This time, assuming no one was paid more than $100,000:

100,000 x 0.1 = 10,000
10,000 x 78 = $780,000

A total of $11,130,000 saved annually, without reducing anyone’s pay below $67,500. For reference, median household income in Franklin County as of 2008 was $51,246.

Maybe I’m being unfair to the Columbus Education Association – after all, the union has made concessions:

She said the district will save about $9.5 million because of recently negotiated union contracts that include freezes to base salaries and limits on raises received through years-of-service bumps.

Though 10% is a lot to ask, consider the context. Consider the Columbus City Schools employees who will be fired because the union’s grand gesture is smaller raises while the district, the state, and the nation struggle financially. Consider the students who miss out on academic or extracurricular programs while 1,458 district employees earn more than $75,000 a year – and pay dues to a union whose key concerns are income and power.

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Hilliard Begs for Bargaining Reform

The Dispatch reports that, by an unofficial margin of 8,204 to 6,284, the Hilliard City School District (HCSD) ballot issue failed yesterday. The 6.9-mil permanent property tax hike was billed as necessary to avoid cuts to educational and extracurricular programs in one of the state’s best districts. What sort of cuts did we vote for by turning down Issue 7?

The $3,890,279 list of possible reductions includes:

  • eliminating 51.5 administrative, certified and classified positions;
  • reducing 247 classified positions;
  • eliminating all middle school athletic programs;
  • eliminating gifted instruction;
  • eliminating fifth grade band and strings programs; and,
  • eliminating transportation services for field trips, daycare services and FOCUS (gifted) shuttles.

As proof HCSD is serious about controlling spending, the district offers the following:

Since 2008, Hilliard City Schools has cut more than $6.5 million from its budget. These reductions consist of:

  • pay freezes for all employees including administrators, teachers and support staff;
  • elimination of five and delayed implementation of one administrative positions;
  • eliminating 54.5 teaching positions including K-12 teachers, K-5 guidance counselors, K-5 unified arts teachers, school psychologist, adaptive physical education teachers and some gifted teachers;
  • elimination of 55 classified positions including noon aids, some high school hall monitors and some district repair technicians;
  • reduced 11 preschool aides from five to four days per week;
  • not filling two high school positions;
  • reduced stipends and extended days;
  • elimination of some programs;
  • reduction of central office and building budgets;
  • more efficient energy pricing and consumption; and,
  • decreasing transportation costs by increasing the number of group stops.

Can you spot what’s missing from both the past and planned cuts? That’s right: salary reductions. Though HCSD is willing to cut services, fire employees, and ask for a massive tax hike on the district’s property owners, the local branch of the Ohio Education Association (OEA) renders an obvious solution impossible.

Hilliard City Schools could save $3.9 million per year without firing a single employee or cutting a single service. In 2010, 517 of 1,975 employees were paid between $75,000 and $100,000. What if we rounded down and assumed each was paid not a penny more than $75,000? What if we then cut pay for each of these 517 employees by 10% and left them struggling to survive on $67,500 a year?

75,000 x 0.10 = 7,500
7,500 x 517 = $3,877,500

Easy as falling down, we’ve saved Hilliard taxpayers nearly as much as the cuts proposed by Superintendent McVey. That’s without even touching McVey’s $158,241 salary, or the salaries of the other 23 HCSD employees paid in excess of $100,000 in 2010. What if we also took 10% from these employees, assuming each was paid no more than $100,000?

100,000 x 0.10 = 10,000
10,000 x 24 = $240,000

To be sure, a 10% pay cut is drastic, but it’s for the children. If the affected employees care more about their pay than about the students whose academic and extracurricular programs the district is willing to cut, they’re welcome to look elsewhere for jobs paying $67,500 – $90,000 with lengthy summer and winter vacations. HCSD will no doubt have a wealth of applicants for the vacated positions, given central Ohio’s unemployment rate.

As of 2010, more than 27% of HCSD employees were paid $75,000 or greater. The latest Census Bureau fact sheet – from 2008, and certainly higher than the 2010 figures – pegs median household income in Franklin County at $51,246. A fourth of HCSD’s employees are paid bushels more than the county’s median household… yet when the budget is tight, teachers are fired and services cut instead of trimming salaries. What no market could ever sustain, the union forever demands.

Something to keep in mind during the union media blitz against Senate Bill 5! If you’re still not convinced, take a look at OEA pay and political spending. Lest you assume OEA is an anomaly, check out pay and political spending in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

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

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Union first, Students second

The Dispatch reports on a Columbus Board of Education decision:

Columbus school board member Stephanie Groce challenged two sacred principles of school unions yesterday by trying to insert into the district’s official lobbying agenda a plank that would remove seniority and the right to strike.

This did not go over well; in addition to an attempt by Groce to reduce opposition to private school vouchers, these items were voted down 5-2. Groce dares to say what must not be said, suggesting that the unions don’t put students first:

“It’s not an attack on the union,” Groce said after the meeting. “These are proposals that put the children first. … This is an opportunity to focus on policy, because we’re not getting any more (state) money.”

Focusing on policy is great, as long as the policy matches what the education unions want. Ask OneOhio Now, whose idea of focusing on policy is lobbying for our tax burden to rise in support of the unions.

Do I detect a hint of snark from the president of the Columbus Education Associaton?

[Groce’s] plank to remove seniority-based layoffs said: “Any staffing decision that ignores quality and effectiveness is an insult to professional educators and an injustice to children.”

“Obviously, a majority of the board saw it differently,” Columbus Education Association President Rhonda Johnson said, after watching from the audience as Groce’s proposals were defeated.

I find it hard to argue with Groce that “Any staffing decision that ignores quality and effectiveness is an insult to professional educators and an injustice to children.” But to the education unions, any threat to tenure or suggestion of merit pay is like garlic-laced holy water to a vampire. The longer you stick around, the more you’ve paid in dues, so it matters little whether you’re good at your job. When it comes down to it, the Columbus Education Association marches to the beat of the NEA’s drum… which sounds something like this:

This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing drop rate rates, improving teacher quality, and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, or collective bargaining.

Is it any wonder the unions want Kasich and the General Assembly to keep the gravy train running and otherwise leave education alone? Yesterday’s 5-2 decision by the Columbus school board reaffirms the common knowledge that, at least in our big cities, the unions run the districts. How’s that working? (Spoiler alert: Columbus City Schools met 5 of 26 Ohio Department of Education indicators for 2009-2010).

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Partisan Hackery Mea Culpa

Good news: with a week to go until what really ought to be a Republican landslide, I believe I’ve got this election-year bout of partisan hackery out of my system. Back to writing boring things about politics and boring things about other topics at a roughly 1:1 ratio!

To recap, nobody should vote for Maryellen O’Shaughnessy. Unless you’re a public union member, in which case go for it; after all, your dues are paying for her campaign! If possible, even fewer than zero people should vote for Mary Jo Kilroy, a socialist who has no business telling businesses what to do. OH-15 and America in general are better off without her, however much the leeches at the AFSCME might disagree. Noticing a pattern here?

Outside of Ohio, one of my satirical Bob Etheridge (D-NC) ads was picked up by his opponent Renee Ellmers’s attack site, which is just dandy as far as I’m concerned. Ellmers – like John Kasich, Steve Stivers, and most of Ohio’s GOP ticket – seems like an incredibly easy choice given the alternative.

As President Obama would say, let me be clear: I am not a party guy. I worked a couple of trivial events for Congressman Boehner during high school, volunteered when Dubya visited Troy in 2004, and put in a few hours at Ken Blackwell’s headquarters in 2006. But, despite all my transparently racist fear-mongering, I have little love for the Ohio GOP. Bob Taft? Mike DeWine? George Voinovich? These are hardly the sort of steely conservatives we can count on to do what’s politically difficult and economically necessary, and the state party has no shortage of their kind.

If being the grandson of a county commissioner is good for anything, it’s b.s. detection. From a young age I got to see that some of the movers & shakers in my own party are miserable human beings, and that most of the folks in the other party are not. As final reminders to vote, you should read this piece by Frank at IMAO and check out this video!

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Letting Lying Kilroys Lie

The Ohio Democratic Party really likes this “Mary Jo voted against the Wall Street bailout” line – you can tell, because they keep printing it although it keeps not being true:

ODP mailer for Mary Jo Kilroy, received 10/05/2010

Like the ODP mailer I received 09/24, this one again cites a 01/22/2009 House vote that took place well after TARP had passed, with the knowledge that it would have no impact. This isn’t a minor typo or a case of questionable wording that takes liberties with the facts. Kilroy’s ads from the Ohio Democratic Party are consistently, prominently bragging about something that did not happen.

Moe Lane covered this in a post way back on June 17th. FactCheck.org dissected it at the beginning of September, and so did The Columbus Dispatch (which you’d think one or two ODP strategists might skim):

The most dubious claim in the ad is that Kilroy voted “against the bank bailout.” She was not yet in Congress when the Troubled Assets Recovery Program, championed by President Bush, was enacted. It is widely seen as the “bank bailout.” Kilroy’s campaign says the ad refers to her vote in January 2009 against releasing $350 billion in additional funds from the Troubled Assets Recovery Program. Kilroy was one of 99 Democrats who joined 171 Republicans in opposing the additional funds.

The vote, however, was regarded as symbolic rather than substantive. The Senate had already agreed to release the additional $350 billion, and both chambers would have had to vote against it to block the release.

In addition to the Stivers-as-fat-cat-lobbyist business you’d expect from a socialist, the Kilroy campaign is leaning on a lie that was discredited a month ago by blogs and mainstream sources alike. Guess all that money from George Soros, the abortion lobby, and the usual assortment of unions has to go somewhere!

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Hypocrisy, Ably Demonstrated

In my last post about Franklin County Clerk of Courts Maryellen O’Shaughnessy, the Democrats’ candidate for Ohio Secretary of State, I touched briefly on an important question: What kind of raises were low-level Clerk’s office staffers receiving while O’Shaughnessy was cranking her Chief Deputy’s salary up to $105,000? You may want to get caught up if you’re going to be voting in Ohio this November.

I mentioned how strange it was for a candidate endorsed by boatloads of unions to devote such a huge portion of her salary budget to a single administrator. “Strange” was, of course, sarcasm: it’s not uncommon for Democrats to talk in heated tones about the avarice of private employers and the wonder of workers’ unions while ignoring their own low-level employees. Think of the hypocrisy you get when a socially conservative Republican is caught in an affair, except with taxpayers as the saps getting screwed.

O’Shaughnessy’s campaign site lists sixty-nine endorsements as of earlier this evening (PDF screen cap; Excel spreadsheet). Thirty-five of those endorsements are from union groups. Of the 50% of O’Shaughnessy’s endorsements not from union groups, one is from the far-left Secretary of State Project, a PAC that hearts ACORN and Secretary of State Brunner and hates anything in the same neighborhood as responsible voter identification. Keep the union endorsements in mind while we take another look at salary data from the Franklin County Auditor (2007-2010 spreadsheet; March – June 2010 spreadsheet).

Clerk of Courts staff compensation, March 26, 2008 to March 17, 2009:

Title Average Hourly Rate,
03-26-2008
Average Hourly Rate,
03-17-2009
Percent
Change
Customer Service Clerk 1;
19 full-time staff
$14.13 $14.49 2.54%
Data Entry Clerk 1;
30 full-time staff
$12.55 $12.85 2.39%
Records Management Clerk 1;
18 full-time staff in ’08, 20 in ’09
$12.00 $12.33 2.75%
Chief Deputy $40.74 $42.17 3.51%

Clerk of Courts staff compensation, March 17, 2009 to March 16, 2010:

Title Average Hourly Rate,
03-17-2009
Average Hourly Rate,
03-16-2010
Percent
Change
Customer Service Clerk 1;
19 full-time staff
$14.49 $14.32 -1.17%
Data Entry Clerk 1;
30 full-time staff in ’09, 28 in ’10
$12.85 $13.17 2.49%
Records Management Clerk 1;
20 full-time staff in ’09, 21 in ’10
$12.33 $12.35 0.16%
Chief Deputy $42.17 * $45.87 8.77%

* Update, 07/21/10: Mary Austin-Palmer was hired 04/20/09 at $40.87 an hour, which means her first raise was $5 / hour, or 12.2%

March 17, 2009 to March 16, 2010, the first 1-year period when O’Shaughnessy was Clerk from beginning to end, was marked by a smaller increase in the average salaries of low-level employees and a sharp increase in the Chief Deputy’s salary. This doesn’t even account for the enormous additional 10.9% raise Chief Deputy Mary Austin-Palmer received at some point between 03/16/2010 and 06/09/2010, or the $140,000 in new Admin positions created since O’Shaughnessy took office.

The Franklin County Clerk of Courts , one of the largest County government offices, is not currently unionized. Based on a simple search (view Excel source) at the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, “O’Shaughnessy for Ohio” has received more than $87,000 from various arms of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and their parent, the AFL-CIO, since January 1. Why such generosity from the unions to a candidate who, in her capacity as a public official, follows plainly inequitable compensation practices? Refer to the first sentence of this paragraph.

Politicians like Maryellen O’Shaughnessy are deeply concerned about the working class when the working class is represented by a union with a deep campaign fund. It’s a great racket, when you think about it: unions indoctrinate the uninformed among their members in the importance of voting Democrat, while steering members’ dues to Democrats who make it easier for unions to slip their feet in more doors. Democrats get to pose as heroes of the little guy, happily running hand-in-hand with unions as budgets tumble over a cliff… and private investors get the blame when everything hits the ground.

Unions – especially public unions – add an extra layer of bureaucracy that hampers productive activity, while siphoning their constituents of dues that mostly benefit union bosses and politicians. Maryellen O’Shaughnessy’s union associations and flagrant disinterest in the workers they claim to represent are two additional reasons to oppose any attempt she makes to move up Ohio’s political ladder.

[Update: Increased precision of percent changes so they’re all as accurate as the Chief Deputy figures; tweaked clunky phrasing of the opening sentence after the tables-o-numbers.]

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