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Additional $1.97 Million in Northport Budget

Superintendent announces An additional $1.97 million, previously earmarked for potential contract settlement, is now revenue; Board debates use of funds.

Three weeks after residents approved a $153.9 million budget and the UTN approved a four-year contract, Superintendent Marylou McDermott announced an additional $1.97 million is available.

McDermott said that that the money had been set aside for potential settlement costs with the teachers union. On May 15, the rank-and-file approved a new four-year deal, agreeing to a hard freeze in 2010-2011, and a zero percent increase through June 30, 2014. McDermott disagreed with Trustee Joe Sabia's description of the additional funds as "found money" due to "overbudgeting."

The announcement didn't sit well with UTN (United Teachers of Northport) President Antoinette Blanck, who read the following statement:

"For over two years, the United Teachers of Northport negotiated in good faith with the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, fully committed to reaching a settlement which would be fair and reasonable to all.
 
We were repeatedly told, as was the community, that the District needed a "Hard Freeze" in the 2010-2011 school year.  This demand was made of the UTN, along with other bargaining units, in late winter of 2010, just as negotiations with the UTN were commencing. Members of the 2009-2010 Board of Education, as well as administrators, repeatedly and publicly stated, "If the teachers would only take a freeze..."
 
Unbeknownst to the UTN, the Board had budgeted over $1.9 million for the purpose of settling the teachers' contract that year.
 
The taxpayers of the community, in good faith, approved the 2010-2011 budget - a budget which included $1.9 million which the District had no intention to spend on settling the teachers' contract.
 
Just last month, the UTN rank and file agreed to a settlement which included the hard freeze in 2010-2011 and three additional years with zero percent salary increases, as well as increased contributions to health insurance.
 
We have made sacrifices and the taxpayers have made sacrifices. The question that begs is just who has benefited from these sacrifices?"

McDermott responded that negotiations could have gone either way at the time, and that future new Board members might not have wanted a hard freeze.  "The decision was made in good faith. We had to have the money in there in case a different decision was made."

During the meeting, Blanck told Patch that she had learned of the additional money on Wednesday, May 30. "It would be fiscally irresponsible not to set aside money for negotiations. But to set aside nearly $2 million and then say you need a hard freeze seems unfair."

Blanck said she had suggested a contract extension but McDermott had concerns and wanted to get feedback from legal. Blanck said she hadn't heard anything since then.

Board members debated possible use of the funds until nearly 2 a.m. Sabia thought it would be fair to put some toward capital projects and return the rest to taxpayers. "I think it would be fair and equitable to the taxpayer." At one point in the discussion he suggested $300,000 as a starting point, which Assistant Superintendent of Business Kathleen Molander said amounted to $14.00 for the average taxpayer.

Board President Stephen Waldenburg said use of the money for capital projects would require voter approval via a referendum. If it were defeated, the money would go back to the taxpayer. "We're giving the public full choice."

Waldenburg said another referendum might be to increase the limits on annual increases to the capital reserve from the current $600,000. If voters didn't approve it, then the money could go toward both the reserve and taxpayers.

McDermott noted that $1 million could go toward finishing projects in the that had been suggested by the Operations and Maintenance Committee for 2012-2013, including replacement of the boilers at the Dickinson Avenue School, replacement of heating and ventilation units at Bellerose and Ocean Avenue, and replacement of univents at Pulaski and Ocean.

Waldenburg suggested that the balance could then be put toward capital projects recommended for 2014-2015: replacement of the auditorium seating and floors at Northport and East Northport Middle School. "This is a perfect opportunity to get a tremendous headstart."

Trustee Andrew Rapiejko said he understood Sabia's concerns but that taxpayers would feel the relief in the future if capital projects were taken care of now.

Trustee Lori McCue liked the idea of putting the money toward capital improvements but Trustee Jennifer Thompson thought that at least 10 percent should be returned to taxpayers.

Trustee Tammie Topel suggested tripling the contribution to the capital reserve fund. The Board unanimously approved a motion to amend the district's capital improvement fund to $1.5 million per year, with a maximum of $12 million at any given time, and extend it an additional ten years.

Taxpayers will have an opportunity to weigh in on the motion at the next Board of Ed meeting on June 18.

FYI June 09, 2012 at 04:15 PM
We vote on a budget based on a good-faith money figure. It is my opinion that once the budget has been approved by the taxpayers, any "suddenly discovered" monies should be returned to us as they are in excess of the approved budget. Sorry, but I disagree that the board has the right to decide how to spend this found money. It's not theirs to decide. It is OUR money that we didn't know about until now.
Chris June 10, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Nick is correct. Further if it is $14 for $300,000 then it is approximately $95 for the average household for the full $1.97 million. If we need further reserves or repairs put it on the ballot. The point is we can not afford to keep spending as we are. If we do then very hard and painful decissions we need to be made down the road. Let be fiscally smart and fair!
Nick Folger June 10, 2012 at 05:59 PM
@Chris another thought. Ignoring compounding, $14 per month may give someone the ability to buy lunch a few times per month or buy food that otherwise would have been foregone. For the board to imply that amount is insignificant, indicates their disregard for the community at large but only consider the relativeness within their own social circle. Inconsiderate and no independence if you ask me. RETURN ALL THE MONEY TO THE COMMUNITY
Goin' Commando June 11, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Priority should be given to doing repairs to buildings and grounds. It is an investment in our school district, and in our community.
Nick Folger June 11, 2012 at 01:44 PM
They already have enough reserves to do the repairs plus they already have amounts for repairs in the recently approved budget. These excess monies do not have to be used for repairs. And Yes, they should make investment in the district and the community. Why haven't they done so over the past years? Poor planning Poor vision. If they use these excess monies it just reinforces their way of doing things. Wait for windfalls versus strategic planning. RETURN ALL THE MONEY TO THE COMMUNITY
janelee June 12, 2012 at 03:51 AM
First of all, Mary Lou Mcdermonnt lied to the Union telling them there was no money for a raise for the teachers. I think the money should go back to the teachers. They negotiated in good faith thinking there was no money for raises. Marylou knew that there was money in the reserves for raises but said they could not afford to pay the teachers a raise correct? so in good faith the teachers took a salary freeze and then on top of that got there medical insurance increased yes they do get a step increase but it is not correct to say that they get that step increase in their pension when they retire not now correct? I say fine in todays times i understand pay freezes but I also understand medical insurance and dental insurance freezes too. I suggest the school district get a cheaper medical plan and dental plan. I say fine to salary freezes but at the same time don't raise the medical and dental insurance premiums that are taken out each week out of peoples paychecks how are people going to afford that if they don't have a raise to begin with?
Sarah Kunkel June 12, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Blame the UTN leaderdhip for, pardon the pun, not doing all their homework. I would love to sell a house to someone who only asked if the house came with a roof and a front door.
Dad of Three June 12, 2012 at 03:54 PM
For janelee, do you really think that the teachers should get paid more simply because there is now money in the budget to pay them more, versus making other improvements, or adding new teachers to hold down class sizes, or returning excess to the taxpayers, or some combination of all three? Don't you have to decide what is right, in terms of salary and benefits, before you decide what to provide?
FYI June 12, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Janelee, The union was never lied to. Blanck is annoyed because looking back she realizes there was more "pie" to be divided up than she was aware and now she wants a bigger piece. What the district said was "Enough pie for you! You have PLENTY already. Here's the piece we're offering and you are not entitled to know how much we have in the kitchen" Not a lie. It's not a legal deposition where each side has to show the other their evidence. It's a NEGOTIATION. Would you ever reveal your cards to the other players? Teachers in Northport are paid fairly, neither at the top or the bottom of the charts. Any increase in the health insurance premiums that they had to pay is minuscule to their earnings. We taxpayers pay the lion's share of the health insurance costs.
FYI June 12, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Sarah, I wouldn't go around gloating that the teachers union was had in the negotiations. It was a fair outcome and there were wins and losses on both sides. Rub your perception in their face and perhaps next time the results will find you in the empty house.
jill June 13, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Dear Dad of Three , I do htink the teachers should get a raise or don't have their medical insurance go up. and for everyones information the tax payers do not pay the lion share of the medical insurance. The employees pay roughly over 200 dollars a month for their insurance. for a family it is higher so lets say that you don't get a raise this year but you are then expected to pay and increase of maybe 400 a month how are you going to do that without a raise? how ???? If anyone of you out there were trying to negoiate with your employer and was told there was no money to get a raise and then agreed to it and then found out there had been money in your employers possesion all along how would you feel about it and then on top of that you were told oh by the way we are going to be taking out 400 a month out of your paycheck for health insurance and you could not get another job because of the economy.
jill June 13, 2012 at 01:39 AM
dear N'ptr How much do you pay in Health insurance? in your job? Do you have insurance and do you think your premiums are minuscule? How do you know how much is taken out of the employees paychecks a week I do !! it is 400 a month and 100 dollars a week! How do you expect to have that extra money taken out of your paycheck when you don't have a raise to cover it!! I am talking about people who are making little or nothing how about the greeters or teachers aids or the newly hired teachers who are not making 240,000 like marylou makes. How are they suppose to deal with 400 a month for a family plan. How would you like to have your contract negotiated and be told that there is no money to give you a raise and then find out that your employer had had money all along to pay you the raise but lied to you, try putting yourself in someone elses shoes. Then your employer told you that they were going to take the money and give it to the share holders. You would lnot like that!! What do you do for a living anyway?
Dad of Three June 13, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Dear Jill You and I seem to be on different planets when it comes to (a) the cost of health insurance, plus (b) relative increases in income. As to health insurance premiums, I can only WISH that I paid $400 per month for family coverage; my cost in 2012 for family coverage is $814 per month. I'm not certain of the percentage increase, but I believe that was an increase of roughly 20% over 2011. As to income, my increases over the past three years have averaged a bit more than 1/2 of 1% per annum (0.005). Furthermore, when it comes to pay increases, pay and benefits for employees is not a matter of how much money a company is making per year. Yes, that is a significant factor, but the principal governor for any employer is the need of the employer for a particular service as contrasted with the pool of talent available and able to perform those services.
jill June 13, 2012 at 03:11 PM
dear father of three. what if you employer up your medical insurance with a 0% salary increase how would you pay for it? Would you like your employer to get someone out of his pool of service as you say to replace your job? at a decreased rate I am sure your employer would love to hire someone to replace you and pay them alot less then they are paying you.!!
East N'ptr June 13, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Jill's comments are classic example of how many union members are out of touch with what's going on in the "non-union world" and exemplify the sense of entitlement from so many public sector employees. My insurance premiums have increased 100%, that's right, DOUBLED, over the last 8 years, but my salary has essentially stayed the same, at least over the last 5 years. If your premiums are too high, how about having your union negotiate a lower cost benefits plan that saves EVERYONE, including the taxpayers that pay 82% of YOUR premiums!
East N'ptr June 13, 2012 at 03:51 PM
You are wrong Jill. The taxpayers do pay the lion's share of medical insurance. The current district employee contribution rate is somewhere between 16-18%, and this will rise over the term of the contract.up into 20-22% I believe. This means the taxpayer will be paying about 80%. Plus, your deductions are made pre-tax, saving you a bit more money.
guess who June 14, 2012 at 03:20 AM
dear E'npt. Wher the frig do you come from? The tax payers do not pay 82% of the prem for our insurance!! Hope you stay healthy and safe this summer I would hate to have you use your health insurance!!
Goin' Commando June 14, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Someone had posted with a challenge to the "82%" number purportedly paid by the taxpayers; I guess it was pulled because of the implied use of foul language. But, it remains a valid question, and I hope someone has the accurate percentage paid by taxpayers. Naturally, the percentage could be different from year to year, and perhaps it could differ with the bargaining unit of the school district. Does anyone have validated information about what share of premiums are paid by taxpayers (thru the district) and what share is paid by employees?
guess who June 14, 2012 at 03:57 AM
dear E'npt, I hope you have a safe and healthy summer so your health insurance premiums don't go up anymore!!! watch out!!
guess who June 14, 2012 at 04:01 AM
the school district pays approx 50% of the prems with tihe employee paying the rest that was the way it was the last time I look at the books.
East N'ptr June 14, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Guess Who, where in the world do you get your info from? 50% of the premiums!?!? No way! The UTN contract that was recently signed states the teacher contribution rates, which were at 18% until the new contract, (and hopefully you can do the math...that means the district would have paid 82%)...will be 19% retroactively for 2011 and go up 1% each year of the contract. The teacher aide's pay a lower percentage. You can see the UTN contract terms here on the Patch that outlines the percentages. Just search for it on the Patch or go to the district website.
East N'ptr June 14, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Here is a link to an article/poll here on Patch that includes a document of the UTN MOA. http://northport.patch.com/articles/do-you-think-the-union-agreement-is-fair-poll
East N'ptr June 14, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Here is a link to the district website with all of the employee contracts. There's not one bargaining unit as far as I can see that pays more than 20% of their own insurance premiums. http://web.northport.k12.ny.us/district.cfm?subpage=558953
Guess Who June 14, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Dear East N'ptr. I am talking about what the district pays not what the employee Pays! Have a nice Day and becareful!! So your Health insurance does not go up!! We know you can't afford it or can you?
Dad of Three June 14, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Methinks that Guess Who is blowing smoke up our pattooties. How can anyone write "I am talking about what the district pays not what the employee Pays!", after previously posting "the school district pays approx 50% of the prems with tihe employee paying the rest"? Certainly not after you subtract 20 percentage points (highest employee contribution in this school district) from 100 percentage points (total health insurance premium cost), and find a missing 30 percentage points. Is there a magic fairy paying that 30% of the health insurance premiums? Either Guess Who is very bad at math (hope he or she does not teach math), or simply trying to deceive the general populace. 100 - 20 = 80 80 is not "50," so the taxpayers are paying much, much more than the claimed "approx 50%" which Guess Who previously claimed.
Goin' Commando June 14, 2012 at 05:07 PM
I feel that the teachers and other staff have no legitimate complaint about paying 20% of the health insurance premiums. My former employer had us paying at least that, and the premiums kept rising every year, regardless of whether we received a COLA raise, or less-than-COLA raise, or, in some years, no raise at all.
East N'ptr June 14, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Thanks for pointing out that Guess Who's math is a little out of whack, Dad of Three. I was wavering on whether to respond...based on Guess Who's illogical and uneducated answers concerning health benefits contributions and the fact that he/she thinks my health insurance premium has gone up because of my own health, which has absolutely nothing to do with rises in healthcare premiums.
guesswho June 14, 2012 at 08:39 PM
dear east n'ptr. I guess you did not understand my comments well you will be surprised!! watch out!!
guess June 14, 2012 at 10:42 PM
dear father of three, Stay healthy and safe this summer!!!
guess June 17, 2012 at 03:49 AM
dear east Nptr, & Father of Three Whats the matter you seem speechless?

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