MCA teachers make their point without saying a word; board concerned about financial future
MOUNT CARMEL - On the same night 105 teachers picketed outside Mount Carmel Area High School seeking a reasonable resolution to contract negotiations, district financial consultant Charles J. Mannello reported the district is not as financially well off as some people think and faces serious concerns involving escalating retirement and health care costs.
At the end of Thursday's school board meeting attended by the picketing teachers, Mannello outlined the district's current and projected financial condition.
As of June 30, 2012, Mannello said, the district had a $3.7 million fund balance. He said the board later passed a resolution to place $2.5 million into an assigned fund balance that would be used to cover increased costs involved with health insurance and the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), and for future capital improvement projects.
Mannello said the remaining $1.2 million in the fund balance is needed for cash flow.
The consultant said the projected cost increases for PSERS and health insurance for the next five years are $545,612.96 and $1,617,269.95, respectively. Subtracting the total projected increases of $2,162,882.91 for PSERS and health insurance from the $2.5 million fund balance and another $187,524.58 that was needed to balance the district's current $16.6 million budget, leaves the district with a fund balance of $149,592.51.
Mannello said Central Susquehanna Trust, which handles the district's health insurance, recommended that the district budget a 10 percent increase every year over the next five years for health insurance.
He said his information was obtained from the 2013-14 general fund budget and pointed out that the projected PSERS increase is based on no salary increases for the next five years.
After picketing outside the high school prior to the meeting, the teachers walked into the Richard Beierschmitt Auditorium in an orderly fashion while holding various signs to a round of applause from approximately 20 citizens in attendance. They did not offer any input when the meeting was opened to the public and left the building in the same quiet manner.
None of the board members or district administrators addressed the contract negotiations.
After the meeting, Mount Carmel Area Education Association President Joe Varano told his fellow teachers, "Don't let them (school board) get to you. They never tell you the whole truth. There is still a lot of money in the pot."
Varano said it was important to once again show the teachers' solidarity in attending the meeting. Teachers also picketed outside contract negotiations Wednesday night.
He added, "We are still teaching and doing a good job. We are being professional about this and continue to provide the best quality education to students in our district. We are more than willing to sit down with the board to negotiate any time."
Varano said the next contract negotiations are scheduled for Oct. 2.
Varano told the teachers not to say anything during the meeting. He said, "We said enough by being here." Several school directors were given the cold shoulder as they entered the high school for the meeting.
Directors Dr. Raymond J. Kraynak Jr. and board president Donna James walked past two lines of teachers who silently protested that the union has been working under an expired contract since June 2012.
The teachers turned their backs to directors Raymond D. Kraynak, Thomas Ditchey and Charles F. Mannello as they left the building.
John Holland, regional field director for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, addressed the teachers outside the school prior to the meeting and said the school board was wrong for not granting the union's requests, which include increased wages and benefits.
(Larry Deklinski contributed to this story).