In what was described as an “honorable” move by school board officials, three more district personnel groups have stepped up to take voluntary pay freezes for the year 2012-13.
At their Oct. 13 meeting, the Upper Perkiomen school board accepted agreements by administrative support, food services and maintenance, custodial and student employee personnel to take full pay freezes for the school year beginning July 1, 2012. All three groups had contracts through June 2012, but negotiated a year-long extension by offering to take the freeze. Benefits will remain the same.
“These three groups voluntarily came forward,” said Board President Harry Quinque of the new agreements. “That speaks well for Upper Perk that they stepped up and asked for a pay freeze.”
The only group not to volunteer for a pay reduction or freeze for that year has been the teachers’ aides whom will have to negotiate a contract by June 2012.
The Upper Perkiomen Education Association was the first group to volunteer for a freeze in exchange for a contract extension and administrators later agreed to half of their contracted increases for the same year. Administrators will take a full pay freeze for 2013-14.
“I think the board can’t thank these folks enough in this budget crisis,” noted Board Director Dr. George Bonekemper.
In a lengthy discussion, the board debated the merits of self-insuring by joining a health care insurance consortium which could reportedly save the district upwards of $400,000, a projected 8-12 percent on premiums. The consortium, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Schools Trust, can now obtain prescription and medical insurance benefits for participating school districts who are members of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (MCIU).
While Director Rob Pepe said he had concerns about relinquishing any of the district’s control to the board making decisions for the consortium or giving more control to the MCIU, other board members like Bonekemper and Bill Scott disagreed.
“It’s a three-year commitment. I think we’ll see savings and continue to see savings. I think it’s something to move forward with,” Scott said.
“This is an opportunity to save money. There aren’t any negatives I’m aware of,” said Business Administrator Sandy Kassel. “As we get into these tough budget times every dollar is valuable and I wouldn’t recommend it to you if I didn’t think it was the way to go.”
As a member of the consortium, the board would have the insurance purchasing power of multiple school districts. To date, the majority of school districts belonging to the MCIU have expressed interest in joining, except for those, like North Penn, which are large enough they have previously self-insured.
The board voted 7-2 to join the consortium.
In other news, the board approved an employment agreement with Dr. William Leary, the superintendent search consultant, not to exceed $15,000. Quinque reiterated the date of District Superintendent Dr. Timothy Kirby’s retirement, Jan. 2, will not dictate the hiring of the new superintendent, rather the district will concentrate on finding the right candidate.
Leary will be soliciting public opinion on the new superintendent at a community forum to be held Oct. 24 at the district’s Education Center at 7 p.m. No school board members will be present at the forum.
The board later agreed to a 60 percent adjustment for payment of a bill to Lawn Rangers, the district’s previous mowing contractor, for incomplete services. Facilities Director John Sheeran said not only did the district’s maintenance personnel have to finish cutting the athletic fields in April, the contractor also didn’t cut the fields the proper height. Board members also pointed out the owner never got his proper clearances to work on school property.
The board also recognized the formation of the Upper Perkiomen Education Foundation (UPEF), a non-profit group formed to encourage community-wide participation in support of education, secure resources for students and to support programs, encourage excellence among students and build a strong sense of community. The UPEF will hold their first event, the alumni and friends reception, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. at Parents Hall, Perkiomen School. For more information, visit upef.net.