I shudder every time I read about the budget crisis in Pine-Richland. I know what’s coming as I read the articles about the $2 million deficit. Teachers and programs are the first to go, as if teachers and programs were the primary cause of this financial debacle.
The blame is put on salary, benefits, and mostly the PSERS pension plan. Some people may be surprised to learn that the state offered the option to reduce the amount of money school districts pay into teacher pensions about twelve years ago. The economy was better then, and the state took a holiday themselves drastically reducing the growth of the pensions.
The teachers did not take this "vacation" while the district and the state greatly reduced their contribution to PSERS. The teachers kept up paying their share each month of every year and even increased their contribution.
It was the administration’s willingness to “take a holiday” from contributing to PSERS that, in part, led them down this road. The financial mess did not happen overnight or was solely caused by this holiday, but a decade of spending the “found” money from the “holiday” is now upon us.
To be fair, my explanation is a very simple summary for a very complex problem.
You can read more about it here: (page 10 of 49)
Even though it has been said before, it is important to remember that during this pension vacation the district built a stadium for 11+ million dollars, Eden Hall Elementary for 40+ million dollars, and the current HS addition for 32+ million dollars.
While these structures are impressive to look at, interesting and extravagant components were added that may have been unnecessary, in my opinion. I wonder if saving for a rainy day ever occurred to anyone then?
I realize that all of the above is a moot point now, but it does make one wonder where the administration's priorities lie. How can they justify cutting teachers when the district is still growing?
And, how can they build an addition to the high school with many new classrooms and then make headlines about cutting teachers and programs? While money was spent creating aesthetics, approximately 83 million dollars, was an equal amount spent for teachers and programs?
It begs the question, are we more concerned about how it looks from the outside than the actual education of our students on the inside?
Teachers and programs are the very essence of a school district. As a taxpayer and former teacher in the district, I certainly feel the frustration of all citizens when tax increases are threatened. But to put teachers' cuts in the headlines juxtaposed with 2 million dollar deficit is unfair and unproductive.
Please, let's take a breath and look for other more appropriate ways to move forward to correct this problem.
Retired PRHS teacher
Lifelong Pine-Richland resident and taxpayer