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Supt. Explains Issues Involved in Setting Teacher Compensation, Budget

Framingham Superintendent of Schools sent a letter home to parents about the budget; the full text of the letter is below.

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:

http://22poEicy.ctsnubiislmco/masc/Z2Browser2.html?showset=framinghamset.

Since any significant change has associated cost, the challenge is match
expenses to the revenue available.

Hopefully, these answers give you some useful information.

Brad Evans January 15, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Well perhaps the transparency can start with the teacher's union who continue to clamor that they havent received any salary increases. Perhaps the union can explain exactly why they want "set hours" nad does that mean that they are going to leave the school once the clock strikes the hour noted in the contract? Let the transparency begin...
Herb Chasan January 16, 2013 at 02:35 AM
The numbers that jump out are a $400,000 deficit in next years budget. The calculation comes from revenue of $3,100,000 and expenses of $1,300,000 for salaries plus $2,200,000 for Special Ed., transportation, fuel, etc. These numbers do not include any cost of living increases for the teachers. The costs are increasing faster than revenue. This is a terrible situation. What solutions are the schools suggesting short of laying off staff? What solutions are you suggesting?
Brad Evans January 16, 2013 at 01:14 PM
So if the district is currently projecting a 400,000 deficit, Im not sure why Mr. Chasan continues to advocate for a COLA without specifying how to pay for it. Part of the problem for next year lies directly with the School Dept's decision to increase staffing using one time money received this year. This is non-recurring revenue and shouldn't be used to add positions that you aren't willing to eliminate. This is similar to the School Dept's actions about 6 or 7 years ago when the town again gave them close to $1 million and told the SC that this would create a structural imbalance in their budget if it was used to add personnel. That warning fell on deaf ears and many of the cuts that were made the last few years were a direct result of the structural imbalance brought upon years before. With similar action taken this year (again with non-recurring revenue), that imbalance has only gotten worse and will require cuts as revenue are NOT exceeding expenses. Any position added as a result of the funds provided by Town Meeting should be eliminated during the next school budget - that should be a given. Where we go from there, is up to the SC but I think it is clear from the article that the school budget is tight enough already and any COLA's need to be accompanied by cuts elsewhere - perhaps widening the lanes/steps to minimize the impact of step and lane changes.
Derek from Framingham January 16, 2013 at 06:26 PM
Herb you appear to be a big supporter of giving more moneys to the schools. Since you went on the whole speech of getting teachers from the the top 25% in the other letter http://framingham.patch.com/articles/letter-we-are-seeking-a-clearly-defined-work-day - how about answering the questions that were posed to you?
Derek from Framingham January 16, 2013 at 06:34 PM
If history is any indication, as usual the schools will magically find the funds.... Bruce makes excellent points regarding hiring using one time money. It makes absolutely no sense. Most people (at least those with any financial sense) if they ever got a windfall/bonus one year would never make a purchase depending on that windfall/bonus to continue in order to fund that purchase.

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