STATEMENT OF RIDGEWOOD BOARD OF EDUCATION PRESIDENT VINCENT LONCTO AT THE BOARD MEETING ON MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17
I wanted to address an issue regarding our negotiations with the teachers’ union that has been the subject of many communications over the past few days.
Before I do that, I speak for the entire Board when I say that we respect and appreciate our teachers, and we continue to hope that we can arrive at a negotiated settlement with the minimal delay.
1. The district’s budget is subject to a 2% cap on the increase on the property tax. Since 90% of the district budget is funded by the property tax we must manage the terms and conditions of the contract (salary and benefits) within this financial reality.
2. The annual premium increase for the state’s insurance plan for teachers (SEHBP) has been unpredictable. In the most recent experience, the increase been as high as 13% and it was predicted that in 2019 the premium would increase by 17%. Recently we have been told that the increase for 2019 would be 6.6%, but we are waiting for confirmation on this number. The district pays approximately 75% of the premium and the staff pays 25%.
3. According to the limited claims data provided by the state, Ridgewood has a high claims ratio to premium. Last year the claims ratio was 113%. With a ratio higher than 85%, Ridgewood cannot seek competitive bids from other health insurance carriers.
The Board’s request for our staff to complete confidential Individual Medical Questionnaires (IMQ) was aligned to our need for accurate data for a claim analysis that would allow our brokers to request bids from other insurance carriers. This may result in lower premium costs and give us better options in plan coverage. Since the staff contributes to the cost of the health insurance premium, lowering the premium would be a benefit to both the staff and the district.
The website by which this information would be provided is encrypted. The information on the website would NOT be available to the district, business office, or board of education. The data would not be shared with any third parties, other than the insurance company that would be conducting the underwriting.
The REA has made it clear that they reject this proposal, and thus the Board withdraws this request.
4. Regarding salary: Ridgewood’s salaries for teachers are extremely competitive. Currently the starting salary for a teacher with a Bachelor’s Degree is $58,358. The starting salary for a teacher with a Master’s Degree is $65,458. The average salary this year is $86,339. These figures are among the very top in Bergen County and the State of New Jersey.
5. To repeat the most important point: The district’s budget is subject to a 2% cap on the increase on the property tax. The REA’s salary and benefits constitute over 50% of our budget.
We must manage the terms and conditions of the contract (salary and benefits) within this financial reality.
We look forward to continuing our dialog with the REA, and our upcoming October 9 meeting with the State-appointed mediator in fact finding.
On another topic, there has been a lot of communication lately on the hiring of a School Resource Officer, or SRO, and who should pay for it.
As has been stated many times, we view the safety of our students and staff as paramount.
As we have backed that up with actions.
Almost a year ago, the Administration and the Board created the role of School Security Officer, funded it, recruited, and hired a qualified professional.
To give you an idea of the scope of this job, I will read just a few of the many items on the job description: READ FROM JOB DESCRIPTION (attached below)
We welcome the addition of an SRO as a supplementary measure to augment the safety and security in our schools, and are pleased that the Village Council has elected to designate an officer to this role. We look forward to seeing the job description, and how these two positions can complement one another.
There appears to be misinformation circulating on the issue whether the Board of Education agreed to pay a portion of the SRO’s cost to the Village. I want to be very clear that neither the Board nor the Superintendent has ever reached an agreement to pay a portion of the officer’s compensation. Yes, there have been discussions, but they did not result in an agreement.
The former SRO position, discontinued in 2010 for budgetary purposes, was fully funded by the Village.
Moving forward, the District has agreed to consider whether to include some part of the SRO funding in the 2019-2020 budget.
When you think about it, this really should not be an issue, because it is always the taxpayer who foots the bill, no matter whose budget it comes from.