CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Thursday, March 10, 2005

Prop 2 is scapegoat for municipal profligacy


Want to get Barbara Anderson mad? Tell her that she's not going to throw out her trash without using the official Pay-As-You-Throw bags purchased through the Board of Health. 

The executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Marblehead resident said she has "no tolerance" for the proposal that will be put before the town at a Special Town Meeting on March 16....

"We had an override two years ago for this," Anderson said. Anderson recounted the particular hook used to get the override passed: If it doesn't pass, the town is going to cut trash curbside collection.

That ultimatum - pass the override or haul your own trash - Anderson calls "extortion."

The Lynn Daily Item
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Town tosses around Pay-As-You-Throw trash plan


Newton, like so many suburban communities in Massachusetts, is facing a budget crunch that threatens to erode the educational quality for which its school system is nationally known. Those deprivations pale next to conditions in urban school systems that last month failed to persuade the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to order the state to eliminate the disparities between rich and poor districts. But those deprivations are real nonetheless and a powerful incentive to repeal or revise Proposition 2.

It has been more than 20 years since Massachusetts enacted the law mandating that local property taxes cannot rise by more than 2.5 percent annually without the approval of voters. The worthy goal of Proposition 2 was to keep elderly and low-income residents from being taxed out of their homes; the less praiseworthy result has been to pit those vulnerable residents against equally vulnerable school children.

Anyone who has watched a Proposition 2 override battle in the last several years knows how ugly and polarized these local plebiscites have become, pitting the 20 to 25 percent of the electorate with children in the public schools against other residents insistent on drawing a line against further tax increases. In the middle are school administrators, trying to do more with less, forced to make choices that, in the words of Newton Superintendent Jeffrey Young, "make me feel like Dr. Death whenever I walk into a meeting with parents or teachers." ...

In Newton, as in most other cities and towns in Massachusetts, 85 percent of the school budget is earmarked for personnel; 80 percent of that is for teachers.

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Reading the future
By Eileen McNamara


Newton school teachers will decide Thursday whether they want to accept a contract that would give them 6 percent more than they make now at the end of two years, as well as other provisions that are part of a proposed new two-year contract.

The contract offers no change in health insurance combination rate, in which the city pays 80 percent to the teachers' 20. It also offers teachers an increased travel stipend and a improved evaluation process....

The agreement also clears the way for the city's 18 other bargaining units who have also been operating without a contract, including police and firefighters.

The Newton Tab
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
Teachers get 6% over 2 years


Librarians and teacher aides will face layoffs before the next school year under Public Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Young's proposed budget.

The cuts make way for increases in special education and pricey utility bills as well as contract and benefit pay in the $137.7 million budget plan Young unveiled Monday night. Last week, the Newton Teachers Union and School Committee approved a long-awaited contract giving teachers a 6 percent raise over the next two years.

Of the proposed FY06 budget, about $115 million is earmarked for salaries. $22 million will pay for other expenses such as equipment, utilities and maintenance....

The Newton Tab
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Here we go again: Budget angst returns


Now two residents want to avoid the possible repeat of the scenario by proposing a bill before the Board of Aldermen which would require that any override votes either be held in conjunction with this fall's mayoral election or during that 2006 midterm elections.

David Donahue, an aldermen candidate in 2003, and Allan Ciccone, who left the board that same year, are sponsoring the bill, which specifically mandates that that ballot questions be allowed only when a regularly scheduled mayoral, aldermanic or school committee election is held....

"It [an override] is inevitable because, to fully fund the teachers' contract and maintain the so-called gains in the last override," said Donahue.

The Newton Tab
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Plan would block an override


BEVERLY Local teachers secured a nearly 18 percent pay raise over five years almost twice the increase negotiated by Peabody's teachers last fall in a contract approved unanimously by the School Committee last night....

Teachers also will receive a $3-per-hour increase in the compensation rate for approved curriculum work outside typical job-related work. Teachers with a bachelor's degree will earn $23 per hour, those with a master's degree will earn $28 and those with a master's degree and 30 credits will earn $33 per hour....

The roughly 400-member teachers union includes teachers, school psychologists, nurses, speech and physical therapists, therapy assistants and others, Turner said, making up about half the city's union employees.

The city's six other major unions are without contracts. [Mayor Bill] Scanlon would not speculate on how this agreement would affect those negotiations, but said he's glad both sides reached consensus.

The Salem News
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Teachers net 18 percent pay hike over 5 years


Gov. Mitt Romney used a big stick yesterday with cities and towns complaining about insufficient state aid to finance their schools and public safety.

If they don't put a limit of 2 percent on pay increases for teachers, firemen and police officers, he said, don't look to the state to bail out red-ink municipal budgets.

"A city or town should not sign a contract for a pay increase of over 2 percent per year, because under Proposition 2 their revenues are going to just grow 2 percent per year," Romney said. "So if you have a hard time paying more than that without getting yourself in trouble, you'll just have to lay people off."

Romney made the line-in-the-sand statement during a meeting with The Eagle-Tribune Editorial Board. He said local officials have to take more responsibility for their local spending and not expect the state to come to the rescue every year.

"One of the frustrations I have at the state level is whenever there are layoffs in fire, police or teachers, they (local officials) say it is because the state is doing this to us," Romney said. "Well, they are doing it to themselves when they are spending more than they can raise in taxes."

Cities and towns locally have been increasing public employee salaries at between 3 and 5 percent in recent years, and they now face a budget dilemma due to higher costs for uncontrollable expenses such as health insurance and pension payments.

The Eagle-Tribune
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Romney: Hold line on municipal raises


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

In the latest of pervasive attacks on Proposition 2 Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara would have you believe that the 1980 tax-limiting measure sponsored by CLT was "to keep elderly and low-income residents from being taxed out of their homes." The result of Prop 2, she asserts, "has been to pit those vulnerable residents against equally vulnerable school children."

She got it half right, but CLT's purpose for Prop 2 was to keep all residents from being taxed out of their homes, not a select few.

The half she got right is that vulnerable residents are being taxed out of their homes nonetheless by demands of "vulnerable" school children's more affluent parents and especially by the largess of local government officials when negotiating public employee contracts.

In the town of Newton for which she advocates, "as in most other cities and towns in Massachusetts, 85 percent of the school budget is earmarked for personnel; 80 percent of that is for teachers."

The Newton Tab reports, "Of the proposed FY06 [school] budget, about $115 million is earmarked for salaries. $22 million will pay for other expenses such as equipment, utilities and maintenance."

It also notes that the teachers union just negotiated a 6 percent salary increase and "no change in health insurance combination rate, in which the city pays 80 percent to the teachers' 20. It also offers teachers an increased travel stipend and an improved evaluation process."

Meanwhile, teachers in Beverly just negotiated a nearly 18 percent pay raise over five years, in Andover an 11 percent raise over three 3 years, and the beat goes on -- blaming Prop 2 for fiscal difficulties brought on by overspending.

Municipalities fell into this bad spending habit during the Roaring '90s when the state was running annual billion dollar surpluses thanks to the "temporary" 5.95 percent income tax and money poured into cities and towns. As recently as six years ago the Eagle-Tribune chronicled this "embarrassment of riches" in its report "Towns rolling in cash" (Feb. 16, 1999):

Across the Merrimack Valley, and statewide, cities and towns are sitting atop stashes of surplus taxes. It is a remarkable turnaround from the dark days of the early 1990s, when the economy was sour and many towns were millions of dollars in debt.

These days, the state is pouring money into local coffers at unprecedented rates, while local business growth and housing construction -- not to mention tax increases approved by voters -- pump in even more.

But it has raised a conundrum for some town officials: What do you do with an embarrassment of riches?

We know what those officials did with it, of course. They spent it and then some; raised public employees' expectations that the gravy train would never run out of track, and for them the gravy train express never has. (See "When unions fail children")

After yesterday's Beverly teachers pay raise, the Salem News noted, "The city's six other major unions are without contracts. [Mayor] Scanlon would not speculate on how this agreement would affect those negotiations."

Please allow me to "speculate," to predict those six other unions' inevitable demands: "They got theirs, now we want ours!" And we know what the outcome will be, what the outcome always has been -- followed by another eventual "fiscal crisis" and another inevitable override attempt, "for the children" or "if you want your trash picked up."

Governor Romney got it right yesterday at a meeting in Lawrence with the editorial board of the Eagle-Tribune:

"A city or town should not sign a contract for a pay increase of over 2 percent per year, because under Proposition 2 their revenues are going to just grow 2 percent per year. So if you have a hard time paying more than that without getting yourself in trouble, you'll just have to lay people off."

Someone ought to pass that advice along to Eileen McNamara, enlighten her and the Boston Globe.

Chip Ford


The Lynn Daily Item
Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Town tosses around Pay-As-You-Throw trash plan
By Brad Harrison


MARBLEHEAD - Want to get Barbara Anderson mad? Tell her that she's not going to throw out her trash without using the official Pay-As-You-Throw bags purchased through the Board of Health.

The executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Marblehead resident said she has "no tolerance" for the proposal that will be put before the town at a Special Town Meeting on March 16.

The proposal seeks to recover expenses for transporting trash from the transfer station to the RESCO disposal facilities in Saugus - a cost of about $99 per ton.

"We had an override two years ago for this," Anderson said. Anderson recounted the particular hook used to get the override passed: If it doesn't pass, the town is going to cut trash curbside collection.

That ultimatum - pass the override or haul your own trash - Anderson calls "extortion."

Now, do you want to get Board of Health Director Carl Goodman mad?

Tell him that the fee-per-bag of trash that's being proposed could be considered a tax, and that the 2003 override should have prevented PAYT.

"Proposition 2 does not differentiate between communities which have provided services (like trash collection) and communities which offer services they don't have to," Goodman said. Proposition 21/2 is the tax-limiting statute that Anderson, a Marblehead resident, championed in the late 1970s. Because of the statute, towns cannot raise taxes more than 2.5 percent without an override.

The override that was passed two years ago did, in fact, include money for the curbside collection, but the override was for collection only - not transporting the trash. The reason for the proposed fee-per-bag is because of the cost of transporting trash has increased by an average of 7 percent each year.

Wayne Attridge, the director of the Marblehead Board of Health, compiled a question and answer sheet regarding the reasons for PAYT.

The document states that PAYT is a practical long-term solution to managing the cost of disposing of waste. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency, quoted in the pamphlet, reports a trash reduction of 25 to 40 percent for communities that have adopted PAYT.

At this time, Marblehead has about a 30 percent participation in the recycling program.

Goodman said that participation returns or saves the taxpayers "several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year," with PAYT and more residents participating in the recycling program, the town could realize a greater savings, potentially freeing up $700,000 in tax money, which could then be used elsewhere to stem the rising property taxes.

Attridge commented that maybe the time has come to revisit Proposition 2. "We're supposed to be running the town like a business, and the cost of business is going up each year."

The 2003 override amounted to an average increase of $162 per household, and continues to cover the cost of curbside pickup. Should Town Meeting pass the PAYT question, the bright yellow trash bags will be available locally at Crosby's, Ace Hardware on Atlantic Avenue, and other stores to be announced at a later date.

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The Boston Globe
Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Reading the future
By Eileen McNamara, Globe Columnist


NEWTON -- There is controlled chaos in the library of Memorial-Spaulding School at noon on a rainy Tuesday. Five fifth-grade boys are babbling as they zip along the aisles, running their fingers across the spines of alphabetized books lined up on the polished pine shelves.

Judy Blume. Sharon Creech. Roald Dahl. Carl Hiaasen. Lois Lowry. Which writer to choose for my author study? How to decide? Whom to ask?

In another corner, students at four of 12 computer screens are composing short stories for Writing Workshop. Two others are examining the contents of pizza boxes that hold color-coded relief maps of Massachusetts constructed with topographical precision by Ms. McGuirk's and Ms. DeRusha's class.

The librarian -- who wears a silk scarf, not a stereotypical scowl -- is all over the room, answering questions, recommending books. She cannot remember the last time she sat behind her desk, let alone the last time she said, "Shhhh."

Diane Holzheimer is the face of an affluent suburban public school system, a professional adjunct to the well-trained classroom teachers and well-prepared students who produce some of the most enviable standardized test scores in the state. She will probably be out of a job next fall.

Newton, like so many suburban communities in Massachusetts, is facing a budget crunch that threatens to erode the educational quality for which its school system is nationally known. Those deprivations pale next to conditions in urban school systems that last month failed to persuade the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to order the state to eliminate the disparities between rich and poor districts. But those deprivations are real nonetheless and a powerful incentive to repeal or revise Proposition 2.

It has been more than 20 years since Massachusetts enacted the law mandating that local property taxes cannot rise by more than 2.5 percent annually without the approval of voters. The worthy goal of Proposition 2 was to keep elderly and low-income residents from being taxed out of their homes; the less praiseworthy result has been to pit those vulnerable residents against equally vulnerable school children.

Anyone who has watched a Proposition 2 override battle in the last several years knows how ugly and polarized these local plebiscites have become, pitting the 20 to 25 percent of the electorate with children in the public schools against other residents insistent on drawing a line against further tax increases. In the middle are school administrators, trying to do more with less, forced to make choices that, in the words of Newton Superintendent Jeffrey Young, "make me feel like Dr. Death whenever I walk into a meeting with parents or teachers."

Next Monday night, Young will walk into a School Committee meeting and propose a halving of library staff in the city's 16 elementary schools, not, he says, "because I am targeting librarians."

"I love the libraries and I know the valuable work those librarians do, but schools are a labor-intensive business," he said. "You can't cut costs without cutting people."

In Newton, as in most other cities and towns in Massachusetts, 85 percent of the school budget is earmarked for personnel; 80 percent of that is for teachers. In a letter mailed yesterday, the elementary school librarians appealed to parents to fight the proposed cuts, citing research showing a correlation between well-staffed school libraries and student achievement.

For Diane Holzheimer, that research is affirmed every day she challenges a child to select a book just beyond her reading level. "A lot of people think that any room with books is a library," she said, glancing around the library addition built a few years ago. "I know that once you dismantle a program like this, it takes a generation to build it back up."

The old library at Memorial-Spaulding was in the basement. Metaphorically, the new one may be there soon.

Eileen McNamara is a Globe columnist.

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The Newton Tab
Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Teachers get 6% over 2 years
By Lindsay Crudele, Staff Writer


Newton school teachers will decide Thursday whether they want to accept a contract that would give them 6 percent more than they make now at the end of two years, as well as other provisions that are part of a proposed new two-year contract.

The contract offers no change in health insurance combination rate, in which the city pays 80 percent to the teachers' 20. It also offers teachers an increased travel stipend and an improved evaluation process.

The tentative agreement with Newton Teachers Association was reached after more than a year of drawn-out negotiations. By February, the union recommended teachers boycott voluntary events, which resulted in the cancellation of several clubs, field trips and other special events.

The agreement also clears the way for the city's 18 other bargaining units who have also been operating without a contract, including police and firefighters.

The contract applies to five units of school employees - teachers, administrators, aides, in-house substitute staff and administrative support staff - and lasts from Sept. 1, 2004, through Aug. 31, 2006.

Last week, School Committee members and union officials both said they were happy that negotiations were able to come to a close, but that no compromise would perfectly satisfy either party.

"All of us are interdependent in the school system," said Superintendent Jeffrey Young. "The school committee needs the teachers, and the teachers need the school committee. In order for the system to succeed, we need to recognize our interdependence. I'm hopeful the agreement will reflect the respect paid on all sides to interdependence."

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The Newton Tab
Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Here we go again: Budget angst returns
By Lindsay Crudele, Staff Writer


Librarians and teacher aides will face layoffs before the next school year under Public Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Young's proposed budget.

The cuts make way for increases in special education and pricey utility bills as well as contract and benefit pay in the $137.7 million budget plan Young unveiled Monday night. Last week, the Newton Teachers Union and School Committee approved a long-awaited contract giving teachers a 6 percent raise over the next two years.

Of the proposed FY06 budget, about $115 million is earmarked for salaries. $22 million will pay for other expenses such as equipment, utilities and maintenance.

Half of the library specialist positions in elementary schools, or 6.9 full-time equivalents, will vanish, resulting in remaining staff stretching workloads between schools, as well as reduced library hours and technical support.

Lincoln-Eliot Principal Vivian Swoboda lamented the library cuts, calling them "... a real loss ... It's so important for kids to learn research skills," she said, in a time when the Internet has become a common tool. Swoboda said that the collaboration between classroom teachers and librarians is "so good for kids."

"It's just sad that there's not enough money to do the things next year that we've done in the past," she said.

Young contends that an almost 8 percent increase, about $10.3 million, would be needed to maintain all current programs. But working with the 4.2 percent increase granted by the School Committee - up a little from the mayor's initial 3.5 percent - it would be necessary to cut more than $4.7 million from existing programs in order to break even.

Tuesday night's presentation at Day Middle School was the first of several meetings conducted by the School Committee throughout the month heading up to a March 21 straw vote.

"This budget deals with reality," he said. "Newton is a very strong system that can tolerate a lot of challenge.

"I'm not going to paint a rosy picture of this and say everything's just fine, because that's not true, but on the other hand, I'm not going to say the sky is falling, because it's not," said Young. "We're not going to have the resources next year that we'd like to have, but we're going to make the best of the resources that we do have," he said, although he added that the next year will be a challenging one for staff.

"As hard as they work, they're not going to deliver the same services," as some positions will be forced to pick up the duties of eliminated jobs and stretch their resources between different schools.

Thirty-two teacher aides in elementary schools will see their jobs eliminated according to the proposed budget - 9.4 full-time equivalents in the middle schools and 10 in the high schools. About 10 elementary-level teacher positions will disappear, as well as 9.4 teachers in the middle schools and 10.1 in the high schools. Young said that while aides will have to be laid off, he hopes the teacher cuts will be limited to reduction by attrition rates.

Enrollment will shift at North and South due to redistricting, meaning 72 fewer students will attend North, while 115 more will go to South. Young said that some teachers will be moved to accommodate the ratio, and cuts will be determined after that.

Both high schools will lose department heads according to the proposal, and those jobs will be taken over by pre-existing house masters or assistant principals in the schools.

Jonathan Yeo, co-president of the system-wide Parent Teacher Organization, said that libraries serve a vital role in teaching kids how to integrate media and technology into their repertoire. But, he said, the reorganization of the Education Center is a spent tactic, and making cuts in the schools is the only option remaining.

Utilities will cost the system an extra $900,000 this year, and another $100,000 will be needed to pay for math and science textbooks a year after some of those supplies were cut.

Enrollment was not a major factor in the budget this year, said Young. Classroom space was a consideration - 235 classrooms will be budgeted. Young said that some classes will top out at up to 27 students.

Custodian jobs, as well as those of secretaries and food service employees, will be cut, although Young said more specifics will not be available until contract negotiations with unions progress further. All local dollars will be wiped out for summer programs, which will instead rely on federal No Child Left Behind Act funds. Technology and equipment will face almost a 22 percent reduction, from computers to tables and chairs.

Also, the health education director will be laid off, her tasks becoming part of the workload of pre-existing physical education staff.

Oak Hill Middle School would cut by half an assistant principal position, $20,000 will be cut from middle school athletics programs and $80,000 more from high school athletics.

However, as requested by the School Committee in the fall, the elementary school bus fee will be eliminated.

"The biggest sticking point with any new contract is health insurance rates," said David Donohue, a parent of four kids in the schools and a former alderman candidate.

"If you compare the budget presented last night with the budget of April 2003, and what was said was going to happen if the override didn't pass, this budget is worse than that one," said Donohue. He said that the 6 percent increase said to be needed each year to keep up with inflation and other rising costs doesn't correspond with new tax revenue coming in to Newton each year.

"Obviously something has to give," he said. "Are there some administrative positions that could be scaled back to save a couple of librarians? Probably. It's horrible."

And the word "override" was murmured throughout conversations in the crowd at Day after the proposal was publicly unveiled.

David Lerner said that the cuts look to continue without an end in sight. "Local funds are capped by Proposition 2, while state and federal funds are being redistributed to less affluent districts under the guidance of the No Child Left Behind Act," he said. "Without a Proposition 2 override, the long-term prospects for our schools are bleak."

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The Newton Tab
Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Plan would block an override
By Bernie Smith, Staff Writer


Back in the fall of 2001, Mayor David Cohen breezed his way into a second term, in part on the strength of city services, top-rated schools and strong bond ratings.

But just days after his second-term inauguration the following January, Cohen said a decline in state revenue and other factors forced him to call for the first Proposition 2 tax override in Newton's history.

Now two residents want to avoid the possible repeat of the scenario by proposing a bill before the Board of Aldermen which would require that any override votes either be held in conjunction with this fall's mayoral election or during that 2006 midterm elections.

David Donahue, an aldermen candidate in 2003, and Allan Ciccone, who left the board that same year, are sponsoring the bill, which specifically mandates that that ballot questions be allowed only when a regularly scheduled mayoral, aldermanic or school committee election is held.

"My point is, I'd much rather see, if they're going to call for an override, have all the aldermen ... take a public stand on it, for or against, and let the public [vote] for an override and the officers at the same time," Donahue said.

The mayor and all the members of the Board of Aldermen and School Committee are up for reelection on Nov. 8.

Cohen has vowed there will be no override this year, but is painting a bleak picture of the current fiscal environment. The teachers union and the School Committee signed a two-year contract, which raises teachers' salaries 6 percent over two years. In addition, Superintendent Jeffrey Young's proposed school budget is already drawing heat for some of its staffing cuts.

Proposition 2 limits the amount cities and towns can increase local property tax rates from year to year. To exceed that limit, voters must approve an override ballot initiative.

Back in 2002, a razor-thin margin of 51 percent of voters supported the city's first-ever override.

But more people voted against the override than supported Cohen in either of the two elections he's had for mayor. (13,521 voters cast a ballot against the override. In his mayoral bids, Cohen received 12,641 votes in 2001 and 12,663 in 1997, his first race for the top office.)

"It [an override] is inevitable because, to fully fund the teachers' contract and maintain the so-called gains in the last override," said Donahue.

Donahue said he felt the need to file the petition because of the similarities he sees with the manner in which the last override was called.

"During that [2001] election year, a budget was put forward, and no one from the city mentioned an override. And then after the election, bang, we need an override," Donahue said. "If nothing else, this will stir a little debate for the upcoming election. Look, if you're for an override, fine. Say it. If you're not, fine. Say it."

The Board of Aldermen referred the bill to the Program and Services subcommittee on Monday. That committee will debate the bill's merits and make a recommendation on it, before the bill returns to the full board for a vote.

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The Salem News
Thursday, March 10, 2005

Teachers net 18 percent pay hike over 5 years
By Chris Bernard, Staff writer


BEVERLY Local teachers secured a nearly 18 percent pay raise over five years almost twice the increase negotiated by Peabody's teachers last fall in a contract approved unanimously by the School Committee last night.

In exchange, teachers will take on more of the cost of health insurance, paying 20 percent of the premium in the final year of the contract, which ends in 2008.

"I think it's significant that health insurance, which is a subject that hasn't been open for discussion, has been modified," Mayor Bill Scanlon said.

But City Councilor Ronald Costa said he didn't think that was enough.

"I'd hoped that by 2008, all municipal employees would be paying closer to 25 or 30 percent of their health insurance, which is approximately what a lot of local cities and towns are paying," he said. "But I'm glad it's settled. And as far as salary, the teachers have been underpaid for quite some time ... and they deserve every penny."

The School Committee vote last night ended nearly two years of negotiations.

"I believe the School Committee was clear ... that we value our teachers," said committee President Judith Cronin. "We all feel that the terms of this agreement are fair and reasonable."

Terms of the deal

Under the new contract, a series of incremental increases at the start and midpoint of each of the next five years add up to a 17.8 percent salary increase over the life of the contract.

While that's almost double the 9 percent increase negotiated last fall by Peabody's teachers association, those teachers maintained a 10 percent health insurance contribution.

The Beverly contract also sets pay rates for nondegreed nurses and for occupational, physical and speech therapy assistants at a percentage of degreed employees.

It also matches 1 percent of eligible teachers' contributions to a 403b retirement plan. Only teachers with 25 years of service to the Beverly school district qualify.

"This is another form of compensation for those at the top of the pay scale," schools Superintendent James Hayes said.

Teachers also will receive a $3-per-hour increase in the compensation rate for approved curriculum work outside typical job-related work. Teachers with a bachelor's degree will earn $23 per hour, those with a master's degree will earn $28 and those with a master's degree and 30 credits will earn $33 per hour.

Other significant terms include:

changing the evaluation cycle for teachers from three to four years

studying the creation of a student advisory and advocacy program for the middle schools

extending bereavement absences to include "close friends" in addition to family members

the addition of certain administrative duties to teachers' job descriptions

Both sides remain closelipped about the give-and-take needed to reach the agreement, but Beverly Teachers Association President Pamela Turner said the union passing the contract "by a solid majority" speaks for itself.

"None of us started with any of these positions," Turner said. "There was movement on every single one of these issues."

The roughly 400-member teachers union includes teachers, school psychologists, nurses, speech and physical therapists, therapy assistants and others, Turner said, making up about half the city's union employees.

About 40 eligible employees have chosen not to join the teachers association. Under the terms of the new contract, those employees are required to pay an agency service fee to the union for negotiations. 

Teacher contracts cover 184-workday school years from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31. Because state law limits the length of negotiated contracts to three years, the new contract is effectively two contracts. One begins retroactively when the last contract ended on Sept. 1, 2003, and runs through Aug. 31, 2005; the other begins Sept. 1, 2005, and ends Aug. 31, 2008.

"You walk into negotiations with some things you really need to achieve for each side," Turner said. "You can't get everything you want."

Reaction

Despite the nearly two years it took to reach an agreement on the contract and the introduction of a mediator into the process last December both sides said negotiations remained respectful.

"We never stopped communicating," Hayes said, adding that not all discussions between sides made their way into the news.

He said negotiations could not be characterized as having taken a long time.

"I think it took an appropriate time," he said. "There's a need for each of the parties to explore what the other side needed out of an agreement. This represents the end product of a lot of conversations over things you see here and things you don't see here."

Turner said last year was a busy one for the school district, which made making time for negotiations difficult but credited Hayes' hire as superintendent with opening some doors in the process. Hayes replaced former Superintendent Richard Lupini last July.

"That made it possible to facilitate ongoing discussions," Turner said.

The city's six other major unions are without contracts. Scanlon would not speculate on how this agreement would affect those negotiations, but said he's glad both sides reached consensus.

"I think it will give everybody a chance to put their full attention to their work," he said. 

In addition, the city still is without contracts for six other school-related unions covering administrators, teaching assistants and state and city employees such as custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and clerical staff.

"This demonstrates that resolution can be reached," Turner said. "But every contract and every process is different. The collective bargaining process is unique every time."

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The Eagle-Tribune
Thursday, March 10, 2005

Romney: Hold line on municipal raises
By Claude R. Marx, Staff writer 


Gov. Mitt Romney used a big stick yesterday with cities and towns complaining about insufficient state aid to finance their schools and public safety.

If they don't put a limit of 2 percent on pay increases for teachers, firemen and police officers, he said, don't look to the state to bail out red-ink municipal budgets.

"A city or town should not sign a contract for a pay increase of over 2 percent per year, because under Proposition 2 their revenues are going to just grow 2 percent per year," Romney said. "So if you have a hard time paying more than that without getting yourself in trouble, you'll just have to lay people off."

Romney made the line-in-the-sand statement during a meeting with The Eagle-Tribune Editorial Board. He said local officials have to take more responsibility for their local spending and not expect the state to come to the rescue every year.

"One of the frustrations I have at the state level is whenever there are layoffs in fire, police or teachers, they (local officials) say it is because the state is doing this to us," Romney said. "Well, they are doing it to themselves when they are spending more than they can raise in taxes."

Cities and towns locally have been increasing public employee salaries at between 3 and 5 percent in recent years, and they now face a budget dilemma due to higher costs for uncontrollable expenses such as health insurance and pension payments.

Last month, Andover reached a tentative agreement with teachers, giving them an 11 percent raise over three years in exchange for some concessions. Methuen's police officers and firefighters will receive pay increases of 3 percent during each of the next two years.

Last night, the Beverly School Committee approved a contract that increased teacher salaries 17.8 percent over five years. Last month, Andover signed a contract with its teachers giving them an 11 percent raise over three years. Methuen's police officers and firefighters will receive pay increases of 3 percent during each of the next two years.

Several area municipal officials have been lobbying lawmakers in recent weeks to increase local aid. Under the plan proposed in Romney's budget, Andover's share of state aid would be, for the third consecutive year, $4.9 million, a $1.3 million cut from 2003.

Andover, Gloucester, Haverhill and Salem school committee members met with lawmakers on this issue last week to plead for more money.

Romney's $23 billion budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1 proposes a $77 million increase in so-called Chapter 70 school funding. Local officials say the aid had not kept pace with rising costs, and they have been forced to rely on layoffs and program fee increases.

Romney declined to say if he had heard complaints from parents about the fee increases but said, "I'd be upset" if those were in effect when his children were in school.

Massachusetts Municipal Association Executive Director Geoffrey C. Beckwith defended the spending practices of municipalities during testimony before the House and Senate Ways and Means Committee last week.

"In terms of cuts, cities and towns in Massachusetts have eliminated a greater percentage of their work force than local governments in any other state in the country, including nearly 2,000 police and fire positions, and huge numbers in education, public works and general services," Beckwith said. "You will hear an edge of desperation from local officials in every community, as there is no margin left, and cities and towns face extraordinary fiscal problems that they cannot solve on their own."

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