Dean C Goss: The Entitlement of Our Teachers

Regarding the pro-Interim Education Funding SOMR

Submitted by Dean C Goss, District 1 RTM, Budget Overview Committee member

I would like to address the elephant in the room. The teacher’s union refuses to agree to a pay freeze this year. The savings from this (~$2.6mm) almost exactly equal the money requested in the SOMR. Wouldn’t this be a reasonable solution to the current budget rancor? Teachers would still receive a 2-3% increase in non-comp and remain the highest paid in the state and Fairfield County by far.

The parents and residents of Greenwich need to know the teachers union turned this request down. There should be more than 3,000 signatures on a petition to the teacher’s union requesting this. How many of you in the private sector are looking at a wage increase this year? Many of you would be happy to be employed, I am sure. How many of you are looking at an increase in non-comp?  I cannot be the only one who sees this as outrageous. It shows extreme disrespect to Greenwich taxpayers and represents an incredible sense of entitlement.

Due to labor contract obligations the Town cannot enforce a pay freeze for this budget, but shouldn’t we be discussing this at least? It’s disappointing that there is not a sense of frustration in our community over the teacher union’s sense of entitlement in the midst of a globally poor economic environment.

Medical Premiums:  In the private sector we pay 30-35%; Fairfield County school districts about 20% on average, but climbing across the board on a go-forward basis; Greenwich teachers pay 12% (although that number is heading to 13.5% next year). If it was 20% this year, in-line with other Fairfield County school districts, this would yield $2.3 million in savings per year and our teachers would still remain the highest paid. This is not too much to ask in this environment! How many of you in the private sector are paying 12% for your medical premium?

Hartford has never had a Michael Mason [current BET Chairman], and it shows in their dire financial position [pre-Covid], along with state-wide corporate and taxpayer flight, and flat state-wide property values. Now everyone is afraid to ask what additional costs Hartford will try to force onto towns in CT and Fairfield County next year. A flat BOE budget this year does not seem outrageous given uncertainties. The tone of the attacks on Mike Mason and other volunteers are unprecedented and not productive.    

Over the last 20 plus years, teacher pay increases have been 2-4%+, [fringe benefits not included here], but they have tended to outpace inflation and also the general grind the private sector has experienced over this timeframe (especially post the Great Recession). While not seemingly high in any one year, the cumulative compounding cause a step-up in job-level non-comp and in pension costs that far exceed these amounts.

On a recent RTM call, I said I thought it was fair to request a one-year teacher pay freeze. The amount saved, $2.6 million, would painlessly end all the budget rancor. Another call participant disclosed he had lost his job, his remaining ex-colleagues had their pay cut 20% across the board and all non-comp eliminated, etc. My conversations around town have confirmed that many taxpayers are in similar circumstances. 

There should be a correlation between property values, the financial condition of the town and its taxpayers with teacher compensation, especially now. Let’s have an honest and frank conversation. We have a lot in common.PTA parents should be in an uproar about the lack of a pay freeze this year. We are all on the same side here. The potential savings in moving teacher comp to a fairer level would free up money for other non-teachers, educational programs, etc. So let’s work together. Let’s start with a pay freeze this year. And moving medical premiums to a fairer level seems quite fair.

In the present, keeping the BOE budget flat is the prudent thing to do.

Dean C Goss
District 1 RTM
Budget Overview Committee member

These are my own views, not those of the RTM or BOC. And don’t confuse me and my views with my father who recently retired from the RTM after many decades of service.