School taxes have been front and center recently, especially in Wayne County.
A group of citizens formed recently and were scheduled to meet with Sen. Lisa Baker at 9 a.m. today at Joey C's Restaurant and banquet hall.
The group formed because they are fed up with taxes going up yearly. They have voiced their concerns to the Wayne Highlands School Board on several occasions.
They have valid points.
The school board, too, is in a dilemma. The biggest single problem facing all districts is the state teacher's retirement fund. Contributions to that fund go up and up every year. It is a state mandated program, so local boards have absolutely no control on what must be contributed.
There's no question the problem lies within the state legislature. They set up the program and they have complete control over the program.
It was interesting on Tuesday night when Wayne Highlands business manger Jeff Firmstone commented about the situation. Firmstone said lawmakers have a huge problem when it comes to the teacher's retirement system.
That problem, he said, is the fact state lawmakers have an even sweeter deal when it comes to a retirement program.
It's an interesting point.
How can they go in and change the teacher's program while keeping their own sweet deal which comes from the taxpayers?
As Firmstone said, it generally means they kick the can down the road and really don't want to deal with the issue of retirement, be it their own or the teachers.
Hopefully, someone will bring up this issue when talking to Baker and see where she stands on her own retirement plan.
But the retirement system is only part of the issue.
Another major component for Wayne Highlands is the contract they have with the local teacher's union.
The current contract, which was negotiated five years ago, expires in the middle of next year. That means the board will start formal talks with the teachers in January. They have already been discussing the issue in executive sessions for some time now.
Page 2 of 2 - This is a huge matter and the public should take a very close look at what is being negotiated.
If you want a copy of the current contract, you can make a formal request to the district office and they are required by law to give it to you. You may have to pay for the copying, but it's worth the cost.
What must happen in these negotiations is compromise. The teacher's union must be willing to put everything on the table. That includes salaries, insurance costs, extra-curricular salaries and more.
If you read the current contract, it's a pretty good deal for the teachers. Nobody can blame them for taking such a deal. Anyone would.
However, the economy tanked right after this current contract was signed and the economy has not yet recovered. It may never go back to the way it was and that has to be considered.
The board members must be firm when negotiating this contract and they have to take into consideration the current state of the economy as well as the length of the contract.
Agreeing to a five-year deal was a big mistake on the part of the board and that can't make that same mistake this time around.
It is impossible to predict what the economy is going to be like five years down the road.
A deal of two or three years is much more reasonable — for the board and teachers but especially for the taxpayers.
We encourage everyone in the Wayne Highlands District to take an interest in this issue. It is your money and you should have a say in how this contract is negotiated.