>In today’s issue of the Independent which was posted online Tuesday night, comes word about the proposed Middletown School budget.
Category Archives: MTEA
>I was unable to attend last night’s Middletown Board of Education meeting even though I had wanted to very much. I had a conflict in my schedule that just didn’t allow me the time to make it. I was curious if anything would be mentioned about the rumoured BOE member, that has allegedly been ordered removed from the board by the State School Ethics Commission. Luckily though, I did have someone there who was able to report back to me on what happened.
I received an email from a few people today that originated from Amy M. Johnson M.T.E.A. First Vice-President and Linda Guyer M.T.E.A. President. The email is addressed to members of the Middletown teachers union and it urges them to call Mayor Scharfenberger and other members of the Township Committee to let them know that the lies the mayor has been perpetuating concerning the MTEA not responding to his request for a wage freeze is false, unacceptable, damaging and unproductive.
I happen to agree and I urge all residents that think the same to call the mayor and let him know that you agree also.
Below is the text of the email with links that I inserted:
To all M.T.E.A. members:
It is clear that the Mayor of Middletown wants to perpetuate the lie that the M.T.E.A. did not respond to his letter by the close of business on April 30th as reported in The Atlantic Highlands Herald on May 3rd, The Independent on May 6th, and Asbury Park Press on May 9th. He needs to hear from each M.T.E.A. member about how his dirty politics are damaging and unproductive, and will not change our answer to his question. I strongly urge you to call the Mayor and Township Committee Members about this today! You may also consider calling any of the newspapers about the lies they are so willingly spreading.
Many of the Middletown Township Committee members do not hold regular office hours, but all committee members may be contacted via voice mail at the numbers listed below:
Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger 732615-2024
Deputy Mayor Anthony Fiore 732706-4153
Committeewoman Pamela Brightbill 732706-4150
Committeeman Sean Byrnes 732706-4152
Committeeman Steve Massell 732706-4154
The Atlantic Highlands Herald: 732-872-1957
The Independent: 732-358-5200
Asbury Park Press: 1-800-822-9770
Thanking you in advance for your continued support,
Amy M. Johnson
M.T.E.A. First Vice-President / Grievance Chairperson
I have to give another well deserved shoutout to Ryan Fennell, the reporter who covers the Middletown beat for the Two River Times. It seems that out of the 3 or 4 reporters that regularly cover the happenings at Middletown Committee meetings he seems to be the only one interested in reporting the whole story, not just the rantings and diatribes of an appointed mayor.
At Monday night’s Committee meeting when the discussion got around to the defeated school budget, he didn’t simply rely on two previously released press releases and a personal letter issued by mayor Scharfenberger over the last 10 days that were written to chastise Middletown teachers and their union into accepting a wage freeze like others have recently done. He actually reported what was said by another member of the Committee that doesn’t happen to sit in the majority, fanning the flames of residents displeasure by attempting to turn this years defeated school budget into a political campaign issue.
Of course he reported what the mayor and deputy-mayor had to say about the teachers, their union, the potential wage freeze and the effect it would have on the Township and school system if enacted, but their comments really just amounted to a rehash of the earlier press releases and letter.
Blah, blah,blah…wage freeze…blah,blah, blah…layoffs…blah, blah, blah…union…blah, blah,blah…pay freezes….blah blah,blah…voter anger at teachers….
Instead of ending his article there, with a one sided, biased, anti-teacher/union spin designed to make the members of the teachers union look bad and glorify the righteousness of the mayor’s attempt to play hardball, he adds the following passage that included the level headed and practical comments by Committeeman Sean Byrnes, who feels that there are more important long term issues that need to be addressed, that would have a much more significant impact to taxpayers if addressed now instead of squabbling over a temporary wage freeze for teachers:
It’s been 13 days since Middletown voters turned down the township school budget and during this time Middletown’s mayor has attempted to take a page straight out of Governor Christie’s playbook.
With a press release and a personal letter directed at the MTEA and it teachers he issued an ultimatum, take a wage freeze or face further spending cuts to the school budget that was defeated on April 20th.
Scharfenberger’s letter that was published today in the Atlantic Highlands Herald and read aloud on radio station NJ101.5, took acceptation at being rebuffed by the teacher’s union stating, “… the MTEA did not even afford me the courtesy of a response. I find this extremely distressing…”
Really? What I find distressing is the fact that today, before meeting with representative of the Middletown Board of Education to discuss the pending school budget; Scharfenberger felt it necessary to fan the flames of discontent with needless rhetoric in an attempt, I suppose, to try and gain the upper hand during the review process of the budget.
It’s too bad that Scharfenberger thinks he needs to play politics by taking on the local teacher’s union in order deflect attention away from his own mishandling of the turf issue and the Township’s own $5+ million budget deficit.
At the very least, before opening his mouth and inserting his foot, he should give the process a chance to move forward positively without the taint of inflammatory rhetoric before the whole Township Committee has had a chance to review and make recommendations on how much money can or cannot be sliced from the school budget, because when he fails to cut a significant portion of the $3M from the school budget that he said could have been avoided only if the teacher’s had excepted a wage freeze, he will be exposed as the partisan hack politician that we all know that he is.
When you consider that the Township uses the gimmick of deferred taxes to help balance the township budget, Gerry can afford to cut an additional $3M from the school budget.
For those that don’t know what deferred taxes are a simple way to explain it is this, after each school budget is approved the township starts to collect the new school tax rate immediately before the old school budget has expired. This enables the township to use the revenue from the newly approved budget, which generally has a higher tax rate; the Township could be collecting the difference between the old and new tax rate for as much as 3-4 months and use it to offset the municipal tax rate. This money rightfully belongs to the Middletown Board of Education however they never receive it.
Currently, after some 20 years of practice close to $60M is owed to the school board and it looks as if it will never be repaid even though the line item grows every year and appears in township budget documents.
So Gerry can bluster all he wants about cutting the school budget if the teachers refuse a wage freeze but the bottom line is that the township relies on that money just as much as the kids in the school system do.
Here is the latest news from last night’s Middletown Board of Education budget meeting, I couldn’t make it there so I have been waiting for word about what transpired:
BY JENNIFER BRADSHAW – The Asbury Park Press
MIDDLETOWN — The Board of Education unanimously approved a proposed $140.3 million budget tonight that calls for a 3.9 percent tax increase and 124 layoffs to close a gap in the spending plan.
Superintendent Karen Bilbao said in order to make more than $9 million in cuts, all nontenured teachers in the district would have to receive notices of nonrenewal.
Supplemented by a $123.8 million tax levy, the budget had to be substantially trimmed after state aid was cut by $7.2 million for the 2010-11 school year. In addition, $2.8 million in state aid was cut from this year’s budget.
After the state announced its aid numbers for 2010-11, layoffs grew to 72 teachers, 20 paraprofessionals, 16 secretaries, eight facilities staff members and seven administrators for $4.1 million in savings.
At the crowded meeting, Bilbao asked the public not to think of the cuts as “people” but rather as “positions,” meaning that tenured teachers in those cut positions could be reassigned.
Bilbao announced at the meeting that she, in addition to several others in the central office, would be freezing their salaries for a year, in light of the cuts.
According to the district, the 3.9 percent total tax increase will add $183 a year in taxes to an average assessed home of $435,000.
If state aid cuts had not been so deep, the tax increase would have been 2.7 percent, the district said.
Tonight’s meeting was the first introduction of the district budget, originally scheduled to be unveiled at the March 18 workshop meeting. It was postponed after state aid numbers came out a day earlier.
Bilbao also said the district teachers union was asked for a salary freeze regarding the following school year, as well as a freeze on stipends for those teachers involved in extracurricular activities, but both requests were denied.
Linda McLaughlin, president of the teachers union, read from a prepared statement in defense of the union’s stance, stating that the existing contract between the union and the district was hard to come by, after hostile negotiations in previous years.
The teachers of the district are also taxpayers and not exempt from economic troubles, she said. A freeze would “(Make) our families even more vulnerable in a shaky economy,” she said.
Earlier in the month, it was announced that the district was already working with a $4.3 million budget hole, caused by increased district costs, and a loss of $2.8 million in surplus funds, through an executive order mandating all districts to use the money in their surplus accounts to cover expenses for the remainder of the 2009-10 school year.
Business administrator Bill Doering then said that the district’s surplus funds are often used as budgeted tax relief for the coming school year, with an absence of those funds causing a hole in the subsequent year’s budget.
To see the Final Budget Presentation and the Final 2010-2011 Proposed Budget from the Middletown Board of Education, you can go to the BOE’s website by clicking >>> Here to read them.
I received the following email while at work last night so I was unable to post it here until this morning. The email is from MTEA President Linda Guyer and was sent to all members of the Middletown teacher’s union Friday afternoon. After reading it my jaw was left hanging open.
With the Middletown Board of Education facing an $11million budget deficit and in the face of potential layoffs of many of its members that would affect class size and loss of programs throughout the district, the MTEA is planning on taking the advice of its parent organization, the NJEA and stand up to the “bullying” tactics of Governor Christie. They are planning to oppose any and all attempts at reopening their existing contract that would lead to wage freezes or any other type of givebacks by their members.
Instead they will attempt to get the message out to parents of district school children about how looming layoffs will affect their kids and to put a spotlight onto “lies” that the governor is telling everyone about their union, essentially using the children that they teach as a wedge between parents and Trenton.
In the past, I always thought of myself as a good union man, but there are times that battles should be fought and times when union members should use their heads and common sense should rein. With an $11million budget deficit staring them in the face, the MTEA should be worried more about protecting the jobs of its members and not about fighting over a wage freeze.
The economy is bad and the state unemployment rate is over 10%, there is little sympathy to go around for public union members who, over the past few decades have gotten fat off the land while private sector employees have had to deal with corporate downsizing, stagnant wages and rising health care co-pays, so if the MTEA expects township residents to be behind them, I think they are in for a rude awakening.
Since my kids have been categorized as “other learning disabled” and have had IEP’s, I have tried not to speak out against the school system or their teachers even though we have had to fight the system. As a result, my kids have been very fortunate to have some of the most caring professionals teach and look out for them, so I can empathize with the situation that the MTEA finds itself under, but it’s time to bite the bullet and do what’s right.
Protect your union members by taking a wage freeze and protect the taxpayers of the district and their children by helping to keep the looming budget cuts and tax increases to a minimum.
If program that benefit my kids and kids like them are cut or eliminated and their education and futures are put at risk then I would hold the MTEA and its members accountable for their failures just as I plan on holding Governor Christie accountable 4 years from now for putting all of us in this situation in the first place.
*From:* Guyer, Linda A
*Sent**:* Friday, March 19, 2010 4:15 PM
*Subject:* URGENT!! General Membership Meeting
To All MTEA members,
As you all are acutely aware, we a facing the fight of our professional lives right now. The devastating cuts that the governor has proposed will have chilling effects across our state and impact /our/ school district to the tune of over 11 million dollars! This will mean layoffs, larger class sizes and a possible loss of programs. The Board of Education and the Superintendent are in the process right now of developing a budget that will be presented to the County Superintendent on Monday.
We need to stand up to the bullying tactics that our governor is using to incite the public through the media. Governor Christie has said that he would be /happy/ to sign bills that would violate collective bargaining. NJEA has said that we need to PROTECT our collective bargaining agreement! We must think of it as our bible in the workplace! Our collective bargaining agreement gives meaning and integrity to our workplace. Our contract is never reopened in boon economies to provide
the benefit of an increase, and we should not be expected to reopen it now, when we bargained fairly for our settlement. On Thursday March 11^th at Representative Council, a motion was made, seconded, and unanimously passed */_not_/* to agree to or approve a salary freeze. The NJEA’s stand is also very clear on this critical issue, “We will not open our contracts or freeze our salaries”. Our principles are not for sale.
I welcome any and all suggestions that our members have in order to face this crisis and get the truth out to our community about the lies that the governor is telling. We need as many members as possible to attend the upcoming budget meeting on March 24^th to get the word out to the community about how the looming layoffs will affect their children. We as a union must stay together and take action where we can.
This is what NJEA recommends that we can and should do in the next 72 hours:
* Call your Assemblymen
* Visit their offices
* Write letters if you haven’t done so yet
* Get your family members and friends to write letters
* Visit the NJEA website for talking points
* On the NJEA website is a separate area called Keep the Promise
where you will find the analysis of the bills, Q & A, and the
truth about pension funding
* Use the Legislative section on the NJEA website to Cyber Lobby and
also watch the video about our pensions and pass it on to friends
We know that there are many questions and concerns that need to be addressed and are going to be holding a General Membership meeting on Tuesday, March 23^rd at Jacques at 4:00, to discuss them. Our NJEA Uniserv Representative, Marc Abramson will be in attendance as well. Please make every effort to attend this very important meeting in order to be informed and united as we navigate these unprecedented changes.
We need to fight the schoolyard bully and not back down!
Linda Guyer, President
Amy Johnson, 1^st Vice President