Roseville district and teachers union in mediation over pay, furlough days

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 7, 2020

 Roseville Community Schools and its teachers union, the Roseville Federation of Teachers, are currently in mediation as the union’s current contract is scheduled to come to an end at the conclusion of the current school year.

Roseville Community Schools and its teachers union, the Roseville Federation of Teachers, are currently in mediation as the union’s current contract is scheduled to come to an end at the conclusion of the current school year.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Advertisement

ROSEVILLE — The Roseville Federation of Teachers, the teachers union for Roseville Community Schools, has entered into mediation with the school district to ask for the pay that teachers gave up 11 years ago to help the district stay afloat during the 2008 financial crisis.

The contract agreed upon between the two parties in 2009 will end following the conclusion of the 2019-20 school year. Roseville Federation of Teachers President Ted Gitter said they are only asking for what they were making 11 years ago.

“We’ve been taking cuts since 2009,” he said. “The concessions have gone back and forth, but at this point the teachers want to be fairly compensated compared to other districts. We’ve taken a look at what the district has done. There is a deficit budget, so they have always said we are going to spend more money than we are taking in, and that shows they are not going to be changing how they are doing things, and thus will not be changing how they compensate their teachers.”

Roseville Superintendent Mark Blaszkowski said the district has returned 5% of the 7% of the pay that the teachers agreed to give up in the 2009 contract and is seeking to give back the remaining 2% this year. However, the district isn’t sure the funds to do so are available.

“We were offering to give 2% of the concessions they gave up back to the teachers, which comes after giving them 5% back previously, so this would put them back to where they were when the concessions were made,” Blaszkowski said. “This is complicated by the fact they are advised to have a 15% fund balance out of our total budget, and the state requires us to have a minimum of 5%, so this is very difficult. We are just above the 5% mark right now.”

He added that the increase has to be across the board for all union teachers due to union rules. The increase cannot be given to some teachers if it is not given to all of them.

“That 2% would ultimately cost us $844,000 per year. We have multiple unions in the district as well,” said Blaszkowski. “Everyone has always taken the same concessions, so we have to make both increases and decreases equal across the board.”

Gitter maintains that the district has the money available; it is just not being spent on staff.

“They have told us the budget has been reduced by $850,000 because of the reduction of employees,” he said. “If they did this 10 years ago during the financial crisis, I would understand this, but they are doing this now. However, they are budgeting to spend more money on things that don’t include teacher pay. They are projecting to spend $1.5 million more in their revenues.”

Gitter also said that the pay for teachers compared to other districts will make it more difficult to attract and retain teachers

“They are giving us the 2% in pay, but they are not giving back some furlough days,” said Gitter. “Step pay is a negotiated pay increase for new teachers, which is laid out in their contracts. They have decided to cut the step increases in half. Young teachers are not making what they would be making in other districts, so why would they want to stay here? We need to bring talented teachers here. After 10 years, they don’t get step pay but instead get longevity pay, which is essentially a bonus based on how long they have been in the district, but that also has been cut in half.”

Gitter also said the money should be available partially because income projections for the district are not as poor as predicted for this school year.

“They got $218 more per kid from the state this year, which is more than the anticipated increases in retirement cost increases,” Gitter said. “They projected to lose 100 kids and only lost 60 kids, so they are getting some revenue from the state. They have some money coming in, and they aren’t seeing fit to give it to their employees.”

Blaszkowski said that they want to pay the teachers in the district as much as possible, but a lack of funding from the state means districts such as Roseville are struggling to make ends meet.

“The biggest struggle is the lack of state funding to K-12 education,” he said. “The state has taken money out of K-12 funding to use in other places, which has left our basic school system in deficit of the money needed to run a district. There’s a county enhancement millage that is going to be on the March 10 ballot, which could potentially help schools in Macomb County if it passes.”

The two parties are discussing their options in mediation. Both sides said they want to reach an amicable resolution soon so it does not affect the educational experience of students.

“We are in mediation with the teachers right now,” Blaszkowski said. “This is nonbinding, so we are more just trying to find common ground at this point. The current contract ends June 30. At that point, it would need to be renegotiated.”

Gitter said the union would be happy with the 2% increase so long as the furlough days also are returned.

“For this year, if you give me the furlough days as well as the 2% they are saying they are giving us back, I would happily bring that to our members for approval,” he remarked. “I am trying not to have any hard lines. I want this settled. We want to get back to where we were 11 years ago and move on from there.”

Advertisement