MAPS teachers, staff offer concessions to balance 2011-12 budget

MAPS teachers, staff Offer concessions to balance 2011-12 budget
Merrill Area Public Schools’ three unions: Merrill Teacher’s Association (MTA), Merrill Custodial Employees, Local 332, AFSCME-AFL-CIO and Merrill Educational Support Professional Association (MESPA) agreed to major concessions in order to assist the district in balancing the 2011-12 budget in the face of major reductions due to the new state budget released last week.
The district faces an estimated 2 million dollar shortfall, and this agreement reduces this by more than 65% bringing the reduction the Board of Education will have to grapple with up to $700,000. Although final decisions on these reductions will be decided in the coming months, these concessions allow the Board to abandon the need for closing rural schools or eliminating middle and high school electives.
Last year the administrators, supervisors and support staff changed health care providers saving the district more than $500,000 over a three year period. With this agreement, both teacher and custodial groups agreed to this change resulting in almost 1/2 million dollars in savings to the district next year.
All three unions agreed to a one-year pay freeze as well as paying their share of their retirement benefit. In addition, teachers agreed to lower the starting salary for a beginning teacher to $34,652. In the end, the total savings of all the concessions are 1.3 million dollars for the district.
“These agreements allow us to address our budgetary issues for 2011-12 and allow us to move forward in a responsible, collaborative manner. We believe this decision is best for our students, families and staff members as it creates the stability we need to remain focused on teaching and learning,” stated Dr. Lisa Snyder, Superintendent of Schools. “Our teachers and staff chose to be part of the solution; I could not be more proud of their actions as they guarantee the continued quality education our children deserve.”
The Board of Education voted unanimously to ratify all three agreements.

Letter to the Community
MAPS Board of Education President
Mr. Jeff Verdoorn
While the State Legislature wrangles on the fate of the Budget Repair Bill and the State Budget, we in MAPS have our own critical budget worries. We have 35 teachers currently holding final layoff notices. There has been talk about closing elementary schools and gutting our vocational education programs. Our community is extremely anxious waiting for an outcome to these and other budget questions.
What are we doing about it? Our Administration, our BoE, and our three employee unions have said enough is enough. We have come to a solid compromise generating one-year extensions to all three of our current labor agreements that do the following:
1) Provide a full wage freeze (The Governor proposed up to a 1.5% increase)
2) Employee contribution to retirement (as the Governor proposed)
3) Increased employee contribution to healthcare (as the Governor proposed)
4) Switch to lower cost alternate healthcare provider (not in the Governor’s proposal)
5) Move the layoff notice date from mid-February to May 1
This is a substantial increase in wage and benefit concessions over what the Governor has proposed. In return, the unions have a one-year extension to all work rules, giving them a measure of peace and security, as well as time for all of us to collaborate on potential changes that could come next year.
What does this mean to MAPS? We will have significantly more savings than originally proposed by the Governor. In fact, we will achieve all economic benefits
of the Budget Repair Bill targeted in year one plus a year one wage freeze. We will be able to settle our budget issues now instead of having to wait to settle local contracts, or even for the politicians in Madison to settle on the final form of the Budget bill. The BoE should have the freedom to cancel Tier III and IV cuts at our end of March regular Board Meeting.
I am extremely proud of our staff and our three unions. We have placed the good of our district above any personal or partisan gain. Most importantly, we now have ratified agreements in place – there is no need for a draconian “implementation” of
benefits or work rules. We have demonstrated a partnership approach with our labor unions and we have placed ourselves in a position to move forward collaboratively vs. in an adversarial manner. We can now shift our focus to a united effort to educating our students.

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