Questions and Answers
Below are answers to frequently asked questions regarding current contract negotiations. Questions and answers will be added as the process moves along. Community members are invited to submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be answered whenever possible.
Updated October 30, 2015 (most recent Q&As listed first)
Did the district move $1 million out of its "pension fund" as part of last year's budget?
The district does not have a "pension fund." The district maintains a designated fund balance for PSERS (Pension) Rate Stabilization.
In anticipation of the significant increases the district would have to pay into PSERS, the district established an assigned fund balance for PSERS Rate Stabilization. Funds were set aside for the specific purpose of helping to offset increases in future PSERS costs until the PSERS rate stabilizes, which is expected to occur in 2018-19. In the 2015-16 budget, the district allocated $1,171,005 from this PSERS Rate Stabilization Fund to offset PSERS costs, as per the spending plan that had been developed to guide when and how the funds would be used.
Was there an additional $1.23 million budgeted for contracted teacher salaries in the December 19, 2014 draft budget, and if so why was it reduced?
The first draft budget published on December 19, 2014 included a line item of $1.23 million for contracted teacher salaries ($1,154,441) and for substitute salaries ($77,160). However, between December 2014 and May 2015 when the final budget was approved, it was determined that the number of contracted teaching positions actually needed for the 2015-16 school year was reduced by twelve. Based on the average teacher salary of $84,239 for the 2015-16 school year, this equates to $1,010,868, accounting for 82% of the $1.23 million figure.
A draft budget is a planning document that, by its very nature, exists to be modified during the budget process based on various factors until a final budget is approved.
By Pennsylvania school law, the budget process for the 2015-16 school year had to begin in September 2014 and, also by school law, the district was required to create a first draft budget by December 2014.
Since there is no way to determine in December the exact number of contracted teachers needed for the following school year, the first draft budget intentionally anticipated the greatest potential need for the following year and accounted for the greatest possible number of contracted teachers. For this same reason, this first draft budget anticipates the greatest potential need in other areas, such as student programs and services, and charter and private school payments.
Additionally, based on updated information throughout the budget process, reductions to the budget from the December 2014 draft to May 2015 final also included:
Reducing the contingency for additional personnel by $419,119
Reducing funds for capital projects by $191,093
Reducing charter school, technical school and approved private school tuition by $188,764
Based on updated estimates from the Delaware County Intermediate Unit and other sources, reducing anticipated Special Education costs by $431,372
Although additional reductions besides those cited above also took place during the process between the first draft budget in December 2014 and the approved final budget in July 2015, these four examples of reductions alone total $1,230,348.How do healthcare contributions from RTSD teachers compare to healthcare contributions from teachers in local school districts?
RTSD teachers contribute to their healthcare costs based on a percentage of their respective salaries, and not as a percentage of the district’s actual healthcare costs. Currently, the district pays more than 93 percent of teacher health care and prescription costs.
In all other Delaware County school districts with the exception of Chester Upland, and in the majority of surrounding districts, teachers pay percentages of their healthcare premiums. For example, in Marple Newtown School District, teachers pay 10%; in Tredyffrin/Easttown School District, teachers pay at least 11%; in Rose Tree Media School District, teachers pay 9%; and in Springfield School District, teachers pay 12%. Additionally, teachers working for the Delaware County Intermediate Unit (DCIU) pay 10.5%.
By paying a percentage of health care premiums, teachers in other school districts and the DCIU share the cost of health care premium increases if they occur, but also have the opportunity to pay less toward health care in years when costs are down from the previous year.Explain the nine new teaching positions approved by the School Board prior to the start of the 2014-15 school year.
Prior to the start of the 2014-15 school year, the School Board approved nine teaching contracts in anticipation of the district’s new kindergarten program. However, based on a close analysis of enrollment figures and overall staffing needs available in July 2014, it was determined that only five of those nine contract positions were needed to fully staff the kindergarten program, and the other four contract positions were not filled that year.
Based on increased enrollment in certain educational areas and the growing need for additional supports for a number of students, four additional teacher positions were added for the 2015-16 school year in the areas of gifted education, English Language Learners (ELL), STEM, and Physical Education.Why can't the increase from this year's Act 1 Index of 1.9% to next year's index of 2.4% be used flexibly to pay for things like higher teacher salaries?
While the index for next year is indeed greater than for this year, the index of 2.4% still remains below the cost of step movement on the 2014-15 teacher salary schedule (2.64%). Additionally, revenue from tax increases would be used for District expenses not limited to the cost of teacher salaries.
How has the district budget grown by 36% over the last 6 years, an average growth of 6% annually -- a rate of increase much higher than the Act 1 index?
The increase from the 2010-11 budget to the 2015-16 budget was actually $20,163,851, representing 26.5% overall or 4.4% per year.
There is no single reason why the budget has grown. Reasons include the cost of health care benefits, salaries and contributions towards teachers’ retirement pensions, which this year alone went up 20.7%. Another reason for the increase was due to the decision by the board to save funds to improve and update facilities. Typically savings would not be used to fund salaries and benefits, which are ongoing expenses.
The 2015-16 budget utilized $4,473,498 to fund the construction projects at Ithan and Wayne elementary schools, a one-time cost funded with savings. When removing this $4.5 million figure, the budget increase over the past six years becomes $15,690,353, or 20.6%, which is an average of 3.4% per year.
How much does a teacher's health benefits cost the district this year and how much does a teacher contribute toward this cost?
The cost of a teacher's health benefits depends on the level of coverage (e.g., family, single, parent and child). Currently, teachers wishing to have family coverage contribute 1.65% of their salary towards health coverage. The cost for family medical, prescription and dental coverage is $23,965. A teacher with a Masters at Step 15 pays $1,643 annually. A teacher with a Bachelors at Step 1 pays $800.25 annually.
Additionally, from 2010-2015, the RTEA health care pool has reimbursed teachers approximately $119,000 of eligible in-network, out-of-pocket expenses.
In most Delaware County school districts and our neighboring districts, teachers pay percentages of their health care premiums, averaging about 10% of the premium costs.
Is the district experiencing difficulties attracting and/or hiring quality teachers as a result of teacher compensation or working conditions?
Information available from our Human Resources office suggests that Radnor remains a very desirable school district for teachers seeking employment or a new position. For example, for the 2015-16 school year:
162 candidates applied for one 7th-grade social studies teaching position
154 candidates applied for one high school English teaching position
395 candidates applied for one elementary school teaching position
These numbers are consistent with numbers from previous years.
What have been the salary increases for teachers during the last four years of their contract?
Year to year salary increases for teachers varied depending upon recognized years of experience (Step), education and movement on the salary scale (see question below for information regarding salary schedule). Since 43% of teachers are on the Masters degree/Bachelors +30 column, examples of those four year increases are:
Starting on Step 1 in 2010-11 = 12.75% increase (3.14 % per year or average of $1,619 per year)
Starting on Step 6 in 2010-11 = 16.37% increase (4.09% per year or average of $2,377 per year)
Starting on Step 11 in 2010-11 = 46.15% increase (11.54% per year or average of $7,864 per year)
A teacher with a Masters who had been on Step 15 for all four years had an increase of 2.64% (.66% per year or average of $640 per year). Teachers on Masters 15 also received an additional average of $633 per year as an "off scale" payment. Including the “off scale” pay, these teachers were compensated 5.25% over these years.
Most school districts compensate teachers based on a salary schedule that provides an increase in salary with every additional year the teacher is employed at the school district.
The most recent RTSD salary schedule also operates in this manner. It consists of 15 rows, or "steps," and seven columns. Teachers are initially placed on the salary schedule based on their experience and education. Once placed on the salary schedule, a teacher will advance a step for every additional year of service up to the highest step, Step 15. Each step includes a percentage increase in salary.
For example, under the most recent RTSD salary schedule, a teacher hired and placed on Step 4 will move to Step 5 after his/her first completed year of service and receive a salary increase. After his/her second completed year of service, he/she will move to Step 6 and receive a salary increase. This “step movement” continues each completed year, with corresponding salary increases, until Step 15 is reached.
As for the seven columns, teachers have the ability to move columns when they earn additional educational credits. Each column corresponds to the level of educational credit attained. For example, if a teacher already holds a Masters’ Degree and then acquires an additional 15 educational credits, he/she will move to column M+15. A salary increase is then given to the teacher for this “column movement.” The teacher then continues to progress through the steps in the new column. If the teacher earns the required amount of additonal educational credits, he/she can move into the next column (in this case, M+30), which again provides a salary increase.
Since September 2012, the teachers’ contribution toward their health care coverage is based on the following percentages of salary:
• Employee coverage: .95% of salary
• Employee plus child coverage: 1.40% of salary
• Employee plus children coverage: 1.50% of salary
• Employee and Spouse coverage: 1.50% of salary
• Family coverage: 1.65% of salary
Information on health care costs for 2015-16 school year can be found here.
Capital projects are funded by borrowing and acquiring debt or by budgeting and setting funds aside as a "designated fund balance” to achieve long-term capital project goals. A "fund balance" is similar to a savings account; best practice is for the funds in a fund balance to be used for non-recurring expenses, not operating expenses. Funds are designated during the audit process through formal School Board action and must be used for the project specified unless further Board action is taken.
In audit year 2012-13, the district had a healthy fund balance and a decision was made to place (or “designate") a portion of these funds into a separate Facilities Initiative account to fund future capital projects. At this point in time, IES, WES and RHS were among the projects under discussion but no definitive funds were connected to the projects. The Facilities Initiative account gained funds over subsequent fiscal years solely from interest earned through investments.
This year, $4,473,498 of the Facilities Initiative fund was transferred into the Capital Reserve fund as part of the 2015-16 General Fund budget to fund a portion of the IES, WES and RHS projects. The district did not have to borrow funds to afford these projects.
The most recent meeting involving contract negotiations with RTEA representatives took place Oct. 22. The most recent meeting with RESPA and RSEA took place Oct. 13.
The district’s teachers (Radnor Township Education Association – RTEA), support staff members (Radnor Educational Support Personnel Association – RESPA) and transportation staff members (Radnor School Employee Association - RSEA) are currently involved in contract negotiations. As of September 2015, RTSD employs 330 teachers (including long-term substitutes), 150 members of RESPA, and 59 transportation staff members.
A number of questions have been asked regarding details of current negotiations. District administrators and board members made an agreement with the unions involved in contract negotiations that we would not be discussing the details of negotiations publicly while they are still in progress.
The bargaining unit agreements containing this information are available on our website here.