Superintendent Press Release February 24, 2023
Dear Cedar Bluffs Families,
The Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) is an increase made to Social Security and Supplemental Security Incomes to counteract the effects of rising prices in the economy due to inflation. In 2023 the COLA for the United States was 8.7% meaning if you had received $10,000 in social security in 2022, you would now receive $10,870 in 2023. In 1980, the COLA reached the highest level in history at 14.3%, while the inflation rate was 13.5%. The inflation rate in 2022 was 6.5%. Many organizations use COLA and the inflation rate to make wage determinations for hourly staff for the upcoming year, as does Cedar Bluffs Public School. Classified staff are hourly employees that do not have bargaining rights, but we always want to be competitive and take care of our hourly staff. Next year, we are looking at an 8.28% increase in salary and benefits for our hourly employees. Teachers received a 5.41% increase and the administration received a 3.67% increase. In all this equates to a $301,581.89 increase to our general fund budget. Since our valuation is roughly $300 million, this means that it would take a 10-cent increase to our levy to produce a $300,000 increase in funds to pay for the new salaries and benefits. The school doesn’t have much control over benefits since we are in a statewide cooperative with Blue Cross and Blue Shield for health and dental insurance, the State Retirement System is required for anyone that works over 20 hours per week and Social Security and FICA are set by the Federal Government. All these benefits make up at least half of the $300,000 increase. However, since my arrival in 2012 the school board has lowered our levy each year – so how have we continued to supply raises? The answer is simple but not simple.
State Aid is calculated by Needs minus Resources equals State Equalization Aid. As we have grown in students, our Needs have grown and thus our State Equalization Aid has grown. However, as our valuation has grown, which causes our Resources to grow it lowers our State Equalization Aid. So, it has been a race of growing our student population faster than our valuations has grown. Other schools who are not able to increase their NEEDS in the formula have been losing State Aid for years and as valuations continue to rise, State Aid continues to go down, that is one of the reason Nebraska ranks 49th out of 50 States in Public School funding. They have been shifting the responsibility to the local property tax holder the past 10 years while reducing what the State has contributed to public school funding.
Teachers wages and benefits are determined by LB 397, that was passed in 2011 by the Nebraska Legislation gives strict timelines and guidance for schools to negotiate with teachers. By September 1st of each year the teachers must request recognition as a bargaining agent (Union) and the school board has until October 1st to respond to that request. Negotiations must begin by November 1st and if no agreement has been reached by February 8th, parties must meet with a resolution officer and must be completed by March 25th. If no agreement has been reached by then the two parties must go before the Court of Industrial Relations (CIR) which must render a decision by September 15th. To avoid these timelines, we try to negotiate a year in advance and since it passage, there has been very few schools and unions that have gone to the CIR. Mostly because other guidance within LB 397, that basically outlines HOW negotiations shall proceed. There are only two things that are required to be negotiated: the salary and benefits. Some schools still have workdays, workhours, and other conditions in their negotiated agreement but at Cedar Bluffs all those items have all been removed from negotiations and made a management prerogative. The first item to be agreed upon between school and the union is who and how many other schools we will compare our teachers wages against or what is called the “array of like schools”. This is probably the only thing that can cause debate in the process. The law does not specify what the “array of like schools” are but the CIR will use the closest 9 schools geographically that are half as big or twice as large in student population as your school to determine the array. So, that is what we use as well. For instance, Cedar Bluffs is closest to Fremont, but they are not in our array because they have 5000 students while we have 500. Next you must be within 98% and 102% of your total costs of personnel in your array. So, if we are spending within that percentage at the end of our negotiations, we are within the law and negotiations go quickly. If you are too high, then the teachers need to lower the amount they are asking for and if we are too low the school needs to raise its offer. Exciting for me, but probably boring for you – sorry! Have a great weekend! #Wildcat Pride!