Dear Pennsylvania Taxpayer,
As I'm sure you have probably heard by now, your school taxes going up. Mine are, too. Perhaps your school district, like mine, has asked for - and been granted - a special exception to raise taxes beyond the cap. Perhaps your board of directors, like mine, was divided, with some of its members hesitating to push the taxes beyond that cap.
You've probably also heard that teacher salaries and benefits account for a large portion of the budget that just passed. And if you think about it, that makes sense. The commodity in a school district is the education of its children, so it makes sense that a large chunk of the budget goes toward the specialists who provide that service.
You might have also heard that a large teacher pension payment is coming due, one that could have serious budgetary repercussions throughout the state. This is not something that teachers have demanded or even negotiated. This is the result of two things: the economic downturn, and the state and school districts failing to make payments over the past several years - failing to uphold their end of the bargain.
Make no mistake - this was all legal - but the bottom line is that while educators have been making their payments into the retirement system, the state and the school districts have not. Consequently, there is a leak in the retirement fund that endangers the pensions of teachers throughout the state.
Whether you agree or disagree with a teacher's right to a pension, the fact is, that pension was promised. Imagine your employer offering you a 401K plan and agreeing to match a percentage of your contributions, then failing to do so. There was a good faith agreement among teachers, their employers and the state, and two out of the three parties have not upheld that. And now that their obligation to pay is looming, the state wants to change the rules.
Faith is no longer enough. Yesterday, the PA House voted 199-0 to pass Amendment 07493 to HB 2497, which will restructure the re-payment plan, diminishing the adverse effects of the retirement pay holiday for districts and taxpayers while honoring the promise that was made to teachers. The bill now moves to the Senate for a vote.
Please contact your local (PA) legislators to support this bill. It is a compromise, and one that honors obligations to all parties involved. For more information, go to www.psea.org/pensions.
A 25-year veteran of education