Sunday, March 19, 2017


Earlier this month, we compared salaries and working conditions of New York City with teachers from Yonkers and saw that Yonkers teachers are doing significantly better financially compared to their colleagues in the five boroughs.

Today we compare New York City teacher salaries with Long Island teachers and we note that all is not rosy outside of the city. After almost a decade of forced austerity following a recession that has long since passed, our friends In Nassau and Suffolk Counties are no longer kicking our butts when it comes to salary. Their maximums generally are still better than ours but New York City is catching up, not because we are rising much but because their increases have been nonexistent or anemic for years.

Here are some examples. The source is the contracts which can be found at See Through New York.

Great Neck: Starting Salary: $57,539-Maximum: $141,359 with a lower salary schedule for new hires.
Bellerose-Floral Park: Starting 2017-18: $55,227-Maximum with 25 years + PHD: $128,128
Farmingdale: Starting Salary: $52,510-Maximum: $130,025 with 22 years and a Masters + 75 credits.

Now these salaries are nothing to sneeze at and all three max out ahead of New York City where the maximum salary after 22 years and a Masters +30 in the middle of June of 2018 will be $119,472.

I live on the city side of Floral Park so I chose Floral Park-Bellerose and Great Neck as they are two of the closest Long Island districts to where I reside. Farmingdale is another district where I  know people who work there.

Their salary increases in their most recent contracts are minuscule. The main cause of the almost non existent raises over the last decade is not the Great Recession which ended eight years ago. New York City's economy has never been better as we have documented more than once. The regional economy is growing also as this graph on regional job growth from the Federal Reserve shows.

The economy is humming but we are still in austerity. Why?

It is somewhat complicated but the short answer lies mostly in the tax cap imposed in Albany. This chart from a 2016 piece in the Democrat and Chronicle shows the cap.
2.0 percent
2.0 percent
1.46 percent
1.62 percent
0.12 percent

The property-tax cap for schools each year is 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. As inflation has dropped, so too has the tax cap.

From the article:

It’s not (usually) 2 percent
Since 2012, the tax cap has limited every local government that can tax you to growing its levy 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. That last part is the key.

The cap number has steadily fallen over the years, to a record low of 0.12 percent for schools in the coming budget year.

If a government wants to levy more taxes than the cap allows, it can try. For towns, cities and villages, that’s simply a matter of the board that runs the show voting for an override. So with a five-member board, that’s a simple majority of three members.

For schools, it’s more complicated. If a school district wants to bust the levy, it has to get voter approval. And not just half-plus-one approval, but a supermajority of 60 percent or more.

And schools find it difficult to get the 60 percent: Just 36 of the roughly 700 districts are seeking an override May 17.

Seriously, ignore most of the numbers
Each year, New York publishes the “tax cap number,” but it’s a benchmark. Ignore it. Just like the 2 percent tax cap isn’t (usually) 2 percent, this year’s 0.12 percent tax cap for school districts isn’t (usually) 0.12 percent.

The yearly cap number is one part of an eight-step, math-intensive process that leads each school district to a unique levy cap.

So yes, every school district and municipality has its own tax cap number. This is referred to as a district’s “maximum allowable levy,” and is one of two numbers you should watch.

That maximum allowable levy almost never matches the yearly tax cap number because it includes a list of subtractions and exemptions and carryovers and other budgetary items.

The other number you should pay attention to is your school district’s proposed tax levy.

Compare that number to the district’s maximum allowable levy to see if your district plans to meet or exceed its tax cap. Districts are required to report both figures.

For the upcoming year, for example, districts’ tax levies are expected to increase on average 0.7 percent.

For 2017, I found this article from Newsday:

All of Long Island’s 124 public school districts intend to stay within their property-tax caps for the 2017-18 school year, the first time that would happen since cap limits took effect in 2012-13, according to preliminary figures released by the state comptroller’s office.

Although districts planned no attempts to override caps, they expect to boost tax levies by 1.84 percent...

OK so inflation is making a comeback.

While people generally are not thrilled about higher taxes, a limit that takes a 60% super-majority to override in good times and in bad does not help our situation as public school advocates. NYSUT has not been successful in getting the the cap overturned and it took years to end the stifling Gap Elimination Adjustment that also reduced school budgets long after the recession was over. Who is the NYSUT person in charge of working with the Legislature and Governor?

That would be Andy Pallotta, the Executive Vice President throughout this period, who is now looking to be President of NYSUT.

I cannot see how anyone who isn't bound by a loyalty oath (UFT Delegates) would even consider voting for Pallotta but he is an overwhelming favorite to win and continue NYSUT's free-fall because of that huge UFT bloc of voters that obeys Michael Mulgrew's orders in exchange for union jobs and free trips to conventions. They will all vote Unity-Pallotta. Some others outside of the UFT will more than likely be bought off in some way by an organization that is essentially broke and they too will vote Unity-Pallotta.

I support Mike Lillis and Stronger Together as our best hope to clean up the NYSUT mess.

For those who say the UFT is not impacted by the tax cap because NYC schools are funded differently compared to the rest of the state, I would argue this view is mistaken. If teacher salaries and school budgets are depressed throughout the state, it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to make the argument that our funding should be increased substantially in NYC. The recent Yonkers teacher contract hopefully started an upswing. Having a union that organized for a real fight wouldn't hurt either.

ENDNOTE: As with everything I write about the NYSUT election, these are my views and mine only and do not represent ICE, MORE or anyone but myself.


Anonymous said...

Since the city insists on pattern bargaining, wouldn't it be great if ALL city workers banded together and threatened a strike.

Keep it simple: MINIMUM of 2.5% per year or we shut down the city.

I think that would scare the shit out of those holding the purse strings.

Anonymous said...

Striking is against the Taylor Law in NYS. Union leaders get thrown in jail and striking workers get docked 2 days for every day they strike. (I however, have no problem with loosing some pay if we ever go on strike)

@Myghty1 said...

Lets hope that our next contract is not 6 years from now like the last one. and hopefully we get increases of 2.5-3% each year and not the sorry 1%-1%-2%-2% that we got in the last deal, which i voted against as a UFT Delegate.

James Eterno said...

MO you have to do more than hope to get a decent contract in my opinion. Union power comes from the rank and file willing to use our collective power to improve our salary and working conditions.

James Eterno said...

Something Sam Lazarus and I suggested to Randi in 2005 to join transit workers with teachers. If we all went out, the Taylor Law would be meaningless.

John G said...

Few things:
First, whatever statistics tell you that the economy has returned out here on Long Island, where I live and send my kid to school, are lying to you. While some communities are fine, but the return of the economy would have to materialize where it matter most in the suburbs and it matters most in the housing values. For many communities, those values, my neighboring Farmingdale included, have remained flat. For folks, on the lower ends of the ladder particularly, there isn't work like there used to be, and these folks aren't buying homes and aren't in a position to pay taxes over the 2% cap. You may disagree on this point, some city based people do, but districts out here are the ones who draft budgets. They know far better than anyone from the city how much they can ask for and they aren't even putting budgets that propose and above the cap forward. My own district put only one budget up last year; for 1.95%. It passed. The district didn't even try anything else.

Second, you're missing Cuomo's bribe and that's important. Homeowners get a check worth 4-8% of their over property taxes directly from Albany if they live in a district that votes beneath the 2% cap. I got a check for just under $300 a few weeks ago! I may or may not get another one next year.

Last; You're awesome. You're aware that I have a very high opinion of you...but this state-wide caucus of which you're part is an absolute train wreck that cares nothing about any of the principles you're writing from here in this post. They care nothing about the conditions of the districts you're writing about. It (this pretend caucus... what's it's name again?) is a bad egg and you would do well to stay away from it and away from some of the people who are in it. I'll even go so far as to stay that Andy Pallotta (who gave a resounding detailed based defense of tenure to the NYS Senate during the recession) cares oodles more about districts out here and across the state than this pretend caucus of which you are associating your good name and good work with. Whereas our city caucus has done tons to improve conditions for students and teachers while being out of power, this "state-wide" entity has ignored conditions and members. It has even ignored direct requests to help -and this includes direct pleas from their own members about districts working under such humiliating conditions that members had to stoop wearing and brightly colored t shirts to work every day for six months asking for respect because a contract had not been settled. A member of that caucus kindly sent word to them that this was happening -twice- and they ignored it. That's just one incident -of a long line of anecdotes- that are waiting to be shared. They're no good James. If you think you have to hang your hat with them because of some need to provide a counter balance to Unity, then fine. But they're no good and they don't give union people or the ideals of solidarity a good name.

James Eterno said...

Blogger James Eterno said...
Let's see, Bianca Tanis of NYSAPE, Beth Dimino, former NYSUT officers such as Lee Cutler, and Maria Neira all are supporting or are part of Stronger Together. These are all people I respect. Who supports Pallotta? Michael Mulgrew and Leroy Barr, the heads of a morally bankrupt political machine.That should be enough to support ST right there.

I have spoken to ST's presidential candidate Mike Lillis extensively on several occasions. He is a decent guy and a trade unionist with some very good ideas. I have no problem endorsing him. Bianca Tanis is Leonie Haimson if she were a teacher. I felt quite at home at the ST forum on Long Island last week.

For the record, I have written that I do not agree with how the caucus treated my friend Mike Schirtzer from MORE or MORE in general and have said as much to Lillis. However, it must be understood that ST has been an opposition group for three years and have experienced growing pains. I've opposed Unity for 22 years, Norm for twice as long. We know what we are up against.

What is the alternative to Lillis? Andy Pallotta and the Unity machine. I've seen them in action. What do they do for the ideals of unionism and solidarity? Uh nothing. I'll take ST over Unity any day of the week. John cites Pallotta's defense of tenure in his comment. Under Pallotta's leadership, tenure has been weakened (burden of proof shifts to us after two ineffectives) and probation extended to four years.

Answer me this John or anyone else: Why is Pallotta afraid to debate Lillis? I remember how Arthur Goldstein knocked Pallotta out three years ago in a forum on Long island when they both ran for executive VP. Just on the evaluation system alone, Unity Caucus is a complete disaster. Throw in the two step dance with Cuomo and the maximum contribution from NYSUT to Republican Senate leader Flanagan's Republican Senate Committee against the wishes of the LI presidents and this is even more of a no brainer.

Mike _ MORE caucus UFT said...

" I have written that I do not agree with how the caucus treated my friend Mike Schirtzer from MORE or MORE in general" can we stop the victimization of me- they treated us, not me poorly, as I recall they tried to meet with you and others -to bully you folks into not publishing anything against them. They acted apathetically towards many. When they were asked to support several different causes, they refused. I laid it out to you in person, on phone, and over internal email- I wont do it here to show respect for your and Beth's loyalty towards ST. With that being said- I wasnt a victim- I voiced my disagreements with them in a rational, logical, critical, but firm manner and they acted like children. It was clear they were not accustomed to dissent and acted as such-enough said- please stop using my name in your posts on this manner and remove my name from all comments that come in about ST -please and thank you! Im proud to be a member of MORE and tremendously honored to be elected to represent high school teachers on the UFT executive board. I really appreciate the reporting you do on UFT, DOE, and union manners on this blog- feel free to cite me in any other reference other than ST

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