The complete memo is below:
The Budget Forum is designed to explain trends in school district funding and
issues impacting the Framingham Public School budget next year.
In February, Tuesday night School Committee meetings will deal with more specific budget details. So even if you are not able to make this afternoon session you can follow the budget dialogue. I hope to help clear up some of the myths and misunderstandings about school finance. Several questions are
emerging as we try to rebuild after the recent recession.
The following are questions many of you have asked, that will be addressed in this forum and over the weeks to come.
- Where does funding for education in Framingham come from?
- How does Framingham's support for education compare to that of other towns?
- What challenges lie ahead for Framingham in terms of school financing?
- How are changes in health care costs affecting education in Framingham?
- What are the issues involved in setting teacher compensation?
- What should parents know about school finance in terms of revenue, expenses and challenges?
Here are general answers to some of the above questions:
Where does funding for education in Framingham come from?
School funding is a combination of town, state, federal and grant funding. The state sets a minimum requirement for local funding. The trend for support in Framingham has been positive although there is concern that costs are increasing at a faster rate than revenue.
How does Framingham's support for education compare to that of other towns?
Of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, Framingham ranks 51st in relation to money spent above the State’s requirement. Framingham exceeds Massachusetts’ minimum funding requirements by as much as 44% per year. This means that Framingham places a high priority on education even if there continue to be unmet needs.
How are increases in expenses such as health care affecting education in Framingham?
The rising costs of health care, special education and salaries are issues of great concern for those managing educational budgets everywhere. While teachers are concerned about keeping pace with the cost of given a national Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 1.1% and a Massachusetts CPI of 1.6%, the Town has to find Ways to fund whatever increases occur in educational expenses. A new state law allowed towns to address the skyrocketing costs of health care by permitting changes that the Town of Framingham adopted. Framingham teachers voted to allow an increase ln their health care deductible from 13% to 16% as well as plan redesign. Framingham is one of only a handful of communities in Massachusetts where health care is not a part of the teacher's contract.
What are the issues involved in setting teacher compensation?
There are three salary increases a teacher may receive: step increases, lane changes, and Cost of Living Allowances (COLAS). In Framingham, step increases are received by teachers for the first 10 years of their career. They range from 1.8% to 6%, but the majority of the step increases are a fiat 5%. Approximately 50% of the teachers in Framingham receive step increases. Lane changes occur when a teacher achieves a level of education such as a Masters degree, 15 credits of courses after a master’s degree, and so en. The teachers receive a 3% increase in their pay when they change lanes and may change lanes at any time in their career. A COLA changes all of the salary levels by a fixed percentage. it is important to know that COLA increases occur on specific dates. So, if a new contract is not agreed to, then no COLA increase can occur. Step increases, however, occur annually. teachers have not received a COLA increase this year since a new contract has not been agreed to, about 50% have received a 5% step increase. Some teachers have received a 3% lane change increase this year.
Over the past 10 years, several teaching positions have been lost due to budget cuts. Some have been restored, but teachers continue to experience increased loads and decreased academic, supervisory, and curricular support. We have also worked to restore a few academic and curricular support positions and to improve supervisory support. Teachers took 2 furlough days during the 2010 - 2011 school year and pay as a result. These furlough days were restored in 2012 and an additional professional development day was added for teachers inm2012-2013.
From FY 2008, 2009 and 2010, the teacher's contract provided annual COLAS of 3%, 3.25% and 3%, respectively. Last year, teachers accepted a 0% COLA along with every other town employee in Framingham. The teachers also deferred step and lane changes until mid-year. This means that approximately 50% of the teachers received no pay increase last year. The other 50% received step increases and their base salary increased by 5%. However, because the teachers agreed to defer the step increase, the teachers did not receive their 5% increase until the middle of the year. Some teachers also changed lanes. So, in a year where there was a 0% COLA, some teachers received salary increases of 5% and 8% midway through the year.
How will a new contract impact the budget for the year ahead?
There are many important issues up for discussion in current contract negotiations. It would be inappropriate to discuss the formal negotiating positions and proposals in an ongoing process. However, it is important that the community is aware of the issues driving the discussion. It may appear a simple matter to settle the contract. On the contrary, there are many complex facets of the dialogue that must be woven together to create an agreement that responds to the needs of all parties.
The obligations for annual salary increases in the current teachers' contract may be difficult to sustain indefinitely. Framingham's revenue projection for fiscal year 2014 beginning on July 1,2013, is a 3.2% increase which equals $3,100,000.
lf annual increases in the salary expenses exceed this budgeted amount, then it create a deficit or a need for spending cuts elsewhere. For example, half of Framingham's teachers are eligible for step increases costing almost $l,000,000. Lane changes cost another .5% ($300,000) making the overall salary obligation adds up to $1,300,000. lf a modest COLA were offered to teachers of even 1%, costing $600,000, then the total increase in salary expenses would be $1,900,000. This leaves only $1,200,000 for all other increases. FY 2013, increases included added non-teaching staff costs of $250,000, Special Education increases of $1,000,000, transportation increases of $400,000, and building maintenance increases of $550,000 totaling $2,200,000. Cuts in the budget would be unavoidable.
What challenges lie ahead for Framingham in terms of school financing?
If revenue projections were higher than 4% then a 4% increase involving lanes, steps and a COLA would not present a challenge. With revenue projections growing in the 3% to 4% range, increases beyond this in salary or any other area may create an imbalance in the budget. Equal increases in pay for ail may seem fair but, unfortunately, the formula for steps and lanes means that some may receive increases while others may not. These concerns are governed by the contract and other issues, such as the work schedules for teachers and class size, are currently governed by School Committee policy.
For more information on policies related to this discussion, such as class size and Work day, please use the following link to the online School
Committee Policy Manual:
Since any significant change has associated cost, the challenge is match
expenses to the revenue available.
Hopefully, these answers give you some useful information.