Saturday, May 14, 2011

Columbus Begs for Bargaining Reform

The Dispatch reports that, with Governor Kasich cutting local spending to balance Ohio’s budget and with reduced bailouts from Uncle Sam, Columbus City Schools (CCS) is planning layoffs.

Columbus Schools Superintendent Gene Harris will propose a $739 million general-fund budget for next school year that would eliminate about 259 staff positions.

Of those, the full-time equivalent of about 38 people would actually lose their jobs. The remaining positions would be eliminated through attrition or by wiping out jobs already vacant.

Earlier this month I discussed how easily the Hilliard City School District could cover a $3.9 million shortfall if teachers and staff paid more than $75,000 were willing to accept serious 10% pay reductions. Of course they can’t, because the local branch of the Ohio Education Association ensures pay cuts stay off the table. Even with firings and program cuts on the horizon, the union (whose only concern is the children, until the children come between the union and its dues) protects the step-increased salaries of senior teachers and staff.

Columbus City Schools would save $13.1 million with the sacrifices Superintendent Harris is suggesting. What if desperate times could be answered by the desperate measure of reducing tenured teachers’ pay?

Balancing the Budget With Sacrifices from the Top

A quick search of Ohio records for CCS lists 8,234 employees as of 2010. Of those, 1,381 were paid between $75,000 and $100,000. What if we assumed none of these employees was paid more than $75,000, and asked each of them to give up 10% of their pay? Let’s even exclude the superintendent’s secretary mentioned in the Dispatch story as “a savings of almost $98,000 a year.”

75,000 x 0.1 = 7,500
1,380 x 7,500* = $10,350,000

* Number corrected 05/16/2011. Thanks to a commenter for pointing out my inability to move a number from one line to the next!

With the firing axe replaced by a salary hatchet, we’ve saved CCS $10,350,000 a year. What if we included Superintendent Harris (paid $185,911.96 in 2010) and the other 77 CCS employees who were paid more than $100,000? This time, assuming no one was paid more than $100,000:

100,000 x 0.1 = 10,000
10,000 x 78 = $780,000

A total of $11,130,000 saved annually, without reducing anyone’s pay below $67,500. For reference, median household income in Franklin County as of 2008 was $51,246.

Maybe I’m being unfair to the Columbus Education Association – after all, the union has made concessions:

She said the district will save about $9.5 million because of recently negotiated union contracts that include freezes to base salaries and limits on raises received through years-of-service bumps.

Though 10% is a lot to ask, consider the context. Consider the Columbus City Schools employees who will be fired because the union’s grand gesture is smaller raises while the district, the state, and the nation struggle financially. Consider the students who miss out on academic or extracurricular programs while 1,458 district employees earn more than $75,000 a year – and pay dues to a union whose key concerns are income and power.

Follow me on Twitter: @jasonahart

Cross-posted at that hero and The Liberty Wall.


  1. Your equation has a typo - should be '1380 x 7500 = $10,350,000'

  2. The union/school district saying that there is going to be 9.5 mil savings is a bit disingenuous. A reduction in increased spending is not a savings. Cutting from current cost is a savings.

  3. Also on the difference between the current salaries and the cuts you propose, the district would also save 14% on STRS pension contributions and 1.45% on Medicare payroll taxes. Assuming that the 1380 were receiving an average salary that was $15000 higher than the $67,500 you propose, you’re talking about an additional savings in the ballpark of about $3.2 million.

    15,000 x 1380 x 0.1545 = 3,198,150

  4. Thanks HinchGroup - fixed and noted!

  5. Revoltaire makes a great point - with benefits based on percentages, trimming pay would save even more money than a quick glance indicates. I'll make note of that next time a big district cuts last-in teachers while paying others huge sums!

  6. It's funny that you blame the unions for not taking the pay cut when most of your savings come from non-union salaries. You arbitrarily cap salaries at $75,000. Then cut another 10% off that. Talk about arbitrary.

    Of course, you do it to make it look like the unions are so unreasonable for not taking a 10% cut in pay. However, take your secretary example. The combination of your "cap and cut" proposal isn't a 10% cut in pay at all, it's actually over a 30% cut in pay.

    But blasting a union member for not being willing to take an over 30% cut in pay is harder to sell than 10%, but don't fool yourself. It's not a 10% cut at all.

    Although with the Superintendent (who is not in an union), you're "10% cut" actually works out to be closer to half.

    So, let's keep it honest. Most of the salaries you're attacking are for NON-UNION management positions. They aren't willing to take the roughly 30% to 50% cut in pay you're asking for, so why are they blameless but the union members are, especially when most of the union employees don't even hit your $75,000 cap (the Buckeye Institute finds that by far, most district employees made less than $75,000.) 6,775 employees make less than $75,000. That's near five times as many that make over $75,000.

    Your own data doesn't support your hypothesis that collective bargining is to blame for the layoffs. The over $2 billion CUT in State education funding is.

  7. I really admire "modern". It can't be easy to defend the predators among us, but Modern labors on!

    There are some simple facts though:
    (1) There is finite amount of money that any government can confiscate from the citizens.
    (2) How that confiscated money gets used is and should be a matter of great debate.

    So Modern complains that the problem for the school districts is that there is less money from the State. See (1) Above.

    Modern then whines that although there are several folks in the district that make more than 100K, there are also those that make far less. See (2) Above. If the union had its way, the expensive employees would survive a downturn while the less expensive employees would get the axe. That's how seniority works

    there is no defense for the deal that the union employees of the government have. Is some of the ire directed at them motivated by envy? You betcha.

    We're getting our butts taxed off and the teachers retire 15 years before the private sector employees. Why? Is teaching so darned arduous that we have no right to expect more than a few years of it from the practioners? I highly doubt it.

    The unions stacked the school boards and used their dues to by state level politicians. Armed with these two strong allies they basically raped the Ohio taxpayers.

    Time for that to come to an end.

  8. Anonymous-

    If you're going to pretend to respond what I said, then at least quote me correctly.

    The top salary makers in school districts tend to be MANAGEMENT, not senior labor positions (as evidenced by the Superintendent.) Management is not prepared to accep the kind of cuts TO THEIR OWN SALARIES as this article fictuous and arbitrarily demands.

    Cut the salary nearly in half of Superintendent, and you'll get a different, and probably lower quality Superintendent. Just like you will with teachers. What this "proposal" would do is force the best experienced teachers out and encourage the district to go with new, inexperienced teachers who will turnout quickly.

    The expensive employees who ARE surviving the downturn is the management positions.

    The fact is that the Superintendent's plan is less painful that the one this site is proposing. He's eliminating 221 positions that are either about to become vacant or already are. That's less harsh than an across the board cut of at least 30% of all salary and benefits.

    But the thing you keep dancing around, Anonymous, is that the point of this post is to suggest that the school districts money woes are the result of collective bargaining by minimizing the role Kasich's budget has in it. But the data relied upon to suggest this actually suggests the opposite. Most of the salaries this post suggests are "excessive" are for NON-UNION management positions. Collective bargaining has nothing to do with them.

    That's the point of my comment.

    You're getting your butts taxed off? You've never paid less in taxes. Federal taxes are lower than they've ever been, and Ohio just cut income taxes by nearly a quarter over the past four years.

    You're delusional if you think otherwise.

  9. The title of the post should be "Columbus begs for Governor that doesn't balance his budget on the back of public schoolchildren."

    Then, it would be accurate... the title at least. The "factual analysis" of the post would still be horribly flawed and incorrect.

  10. Modern said: "The fact is that the Superintendent's plan is less painful that the one this site is proposing. He's eliminating 221 positions that are either about to become vacant or already are. That's less harsh than an across the board cut of at least 30% of all salary and benefits."

    That's right, folks, our resident Plunderbund budget wizard considers pay cuts for people making > $75,000 a year more painful than firings. Oh, and he wants to raise your taxes... but we already knew that.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. I have a bipartisan idea that may solve the problem. Didn't the Obama administration take away something like $400 million that was designated for an impractical high speed rail boondoggle? Kasich rejected that project because it would have cost the state billions in the future, but the Obama administration wouldn't let them use the money for any other project. If we're so worried about the kids' backs, maybe Obama would reconsider and send the money back to reduce the cuts to schools. I mean, that might just be enough cash to save thousands of Ohio schoolchildren a trip to the chiropractor.

  13. my dear modern, I have no problem with reducing the size and expense of the management staff in ohio schools. Will you support me in an effort to streamline regulations so that the non productive overhead employees hired to interpret and comply with these regs can be made redundant?

    that still doesn't address the fact that the teachers are robbing the taxpayers.

    And, dear Modern, the CBA has everything to do with the fiscal woes of the school system. You seem to think that the problem is that Kasich was niggardly in his allocations. That's the real disagreement here. It is my considered opinion that there is no more money to be wrung from the taxpayers. Especially since the money we're now giving up goes to fund a bunch of entitlment minded ingrates who will work less than I do yet demand my money.

    Lincoln defined slavery thusly: "I work and you eat".

    No thanks. Enough now. Time to eliminate the union stranglehold and end welfare as we know it.

    Oh, one last thing. the good old "eliminate vacant positions" scam simply makes no sense. Only someone who knows nothing of business would buy it.

    The issue is CASH FLOW not "savings". If the super eliminates unfilled positions the cash out flow remains the same. The scam is that it seems like the super is saving money versus the "budget" but those positions weren't being paid anyway.

    it is like a family with a credit card they have never used. The fact that they cut the card in half and throw it into a fire does nothing to reduce their on going expenses. It just avoids future cash out flows. The electric bill is still the electric bill.

    Oh, one more thing: The Tax Foundation released its study of business tax climates in October. Ohio Ranks 48 out of 50, with 50 being the worst.

    So yeah, we're paying too much in tax and getting too little in return. I see no value to myself personally in allowing a third grade teacher the ability to retire at 55 with a defined benefit pension plan that will cost the work stiffs a million dollars.

    It is my money. I work hard for it. I expect some value for it. The government of Ohio has betrayed the taxpayers.

    but Modern you keep right on defending the thieves. I expect nothing less from America's liberals.

  14. Jason, I find you an ironic expression of conservative thought. It's okay for the government to set arbitrary caps on salaries and insist that those who make the most money take the biggest pay cuts (which, again, are nearly half), but then you get the vapors over a progressive tax structure that does exactly the same thing.

    The Tax Foundation is a joke. It's a conservative organization whose goal is to oppose any form of progressive taxation and has a documented history of using flawed analysis such as when they continued to criticize Ohio over a tax Ohio didn't even have anymore.

    And Obama has kicked in $400 million for Ohio schools under his Race to the Top program. But I find it ironic, Anonymous, that you're solution is more federal money. Where does that come from? Oh, yeah, taxes.

    Of course Kasich's to blame for the school funding shortage. He's cutting their funding by BILLIONS. Even this post conceded that the Kasich budget cuts are responsible, but it then tried to deflect the blame onto unions with inaccurate and incomplete data.

  15. Modern, you have tried a old tattered page from the liberal play book.

    I understand your need impeach the tax foundation, but you must state which specific statements in their analysis you find to be in error and why you believe these things to be wrong.

    Issuing a blanket condemnation of a group with whom you disagree may work in your drum circle but it holds no validity among those of us adults who actually rely on argument as a means of gaining insight. If you can point to something valid, factual or compelling about their findings, do so. If not, I will continue to harbor the contempt you've already earned.

    Once again, you simply fail to address the basic issue facing the citizens of America: government spending.

    You seem to demand that Kasich send billions more to the schools. Whence this money Modern? Where are we to get the billions needed so that the fourth grade teachers after thirty years of lackluster performance can retire with a nice pension?

    The civil service unions are wasting our money. I need that money. I work hard for it. I see no good reason to let the entitlement class have it.

    Does AFSCME pay you to shill for them on the internet? If so, they should demand a refund.

  16. In case there's anyone with reading skills half as bad as Modern's, at no point does my post say "let's cap salaries at $75,000." I rounded down to $75,000 for the purpose of calculating the savings from a 10% cut, and I think that's spelled out pretty clearly.

    When Modern says I'm suggesting a 30% pay cut, and then a few comments later upgrades 30% to "nearly half," he's just doing what he does daily both here and at Plunderbund: shilling for the unions in spectacularly lame fashion.

  17. For those who fail basic logic, an assumption is only as valid if it occurs. Thus, statements like "What if we assumed none of these employees was paid more than $75,000..." creates an assumption of a "cap" on salaries.

  18. The 30% percent cut claim is based on your first assumption of capping salaries for folks like secretaries at 10% off below $75,000. The 50% cut is what you get from your assumption that the Superintendent's salary is 10% cut from no higher than $100,000.

    Seriously, the reason there are two different sizes of cuts in my comments is because you made two different examples in which your "assume salaries are no higher than x" had a different impact.

    Yes, why other than the two examples in which you explicitly say let's assume nobody in these positions make more than x and these positions make no more in y and then say:
    "Consider the students who miss out on academic or extracurricular programs while 1,458 district employees earn more than $75,000 a year" could POSSIBLY get the idea that you were suggesting capping salaries at two levels...

    why one would have to have read what you ACTUALY wrote to get such a notion.


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