WVN #341: Critical four-board meeting tonight
- Dear Wayland Voter,
A meeting of four town boards tonight is a prelude to union negotiations that will largely determine how much Wayland property taxes will increase in the near future.
UNION CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS
Wayland now has the second highest residential tax rate in eastern Massachusetts. At $17.78, it is only three quarters of a percent behind Sharon's $17.92. When borrowing for the new high school begins hitting the tax bills next year, Wayland will almost certainly gain the dubious distinction of becoming number 1.
Tonight at 8:45 p.m. perhaps the most important meeting in Wayland this year will occur. A joint meeting of the School Committee, Finance Committee, selectmen, and Personnel Board is scheduled. No further details are provided in the agenda, and it is unclear if the public will be able to observe. It is posted as an executive session by the Selectmen, but an open meeting by the School Committee.
For the most part, these meetings are held behind closed doors and not even reported to the public. They concern new union contracts that will almost entirely determine how much higher Wayland taxes will rise.
Last week the School Committee went into an executive session scheduled to last 45 minutes to discuss negotiation strategies.
About half of the teachers received 2.5 percent raises this past year and the other half have gotten significantly more because of step and "lane" changes (such as when a teacher receives an advanced degree). The inflation rate for 2009 was negative 0.4 percent. The Boston Globe reported on Sunday that 57 percent of US workers received no raises at all in 2009.
At least some members of the School Committee appear to believe that teachers are still underpaid, as conventional wisdom maintained for generations. (A 2009 analysis showed that about half of Wayland's union-covered education professionals make at least $90,000 a year.)
But the increased value of benefits, which are still administered in the traditional manner for most public employees, may have tilted the scale. Many online sources estimate the value of public employee benefits is much higher than those in the private sector. See for example
Jeffrey R. Brown, the William G. Karnes professor of finance, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, notes that according to 2008 ECEC data, the employer cost per hour for beneﬁts is now $13.41 in the public sector (state and local governments only) and $7.93 in the private sector. The Wall Street Journal says, "State and local government workers' compensation in 2009 grew by 2.4 percent, twice the pace of the 1.2 percent increases in the private sector. State and local government employees compensation has outpaced private-sector increases for the past several years."
If you want to be sure Wayland officials are adequately representing you in these labor negotiations, and are sufficiently concerned about Wayland's tax burden, you may want to contact them before tonight's meeting.
CENTRAL OFFICE AUDIT
At the March 1 School Committee meeting Superintendent Gary Burton presented a proposal from NESDEC, the New England School Development Council, to do a review of the Central Office structure and staffing. Burton is Treasurer of NESDEC.
The School Committee, responding to challenges from citizens alleging overstaffing of the central office and an excessive number of administrators, blessed Burton's initiative to approach NESDEC. The proposal aims to "ensure that the services provided are efficient and effective." The proposed cost is $9,650.
The committee requested that a request for similar proposals be sent to other firms.
If $100,000 were to be eliminated from the central office budget it would reduce total school spending by about one-quarter of one percent.
Citizens who have petitioned a warrant article for the May Annual Town Meeting are hoping to find greater cost savings and efficiencies, perhaps millions of dollars, in their call for a more comprehensive audit of the town's and schools' budgets by independent professionals.
-- Tom Sciacca
OTHER MEETINGS THIS WEEK
Wednesday and Thursday March 10 and 11, 7 p.m. Town Building. The Board of Selectmen will hold required public hearings on the renewal of Comcast's cable TV license, which expires in September. The hearings help to determine the level of support the town needs to support public, educational and governmental programming. Comcast and the other local cable TV provider, Verizon, make payments under their contracts to WayCAM, which trains Wayland High School students as well as providing a variety of local programming. In addition to expressing views at the hearings, residents can comment by email to www.selectmen@...
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor