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Thread: Did Moving grades 1-5 out of Loker Really Save Money

  1. #1
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    Default Did Moving grades 1-5 out of Loker Really Save Money

    The main reason given when the decision was made to move grades 1-5 out of Loker was to save money and keep the total cost of the School budget under control. This was a worthy goal. However, an analysis of the data seems to show that the decisions made by the School Committee from FY05 to FY10 did not realize much of if any saving.
    Here is the data from Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website,
    ( http://finance1.doe.mass.edu/statistics )
    In FY06 teaching position = 225.3, avg salaries = $65,817, total salaries = $14,829,780
    In FY07 teaching position = 242.0, avg salaries = $64.037, total salaries = $15,493,817
    In FY08 teaching position = 211.0, avg salaries = $73,015, total salaries = $15,406,257
    In FY09 teaching position = 202.3, avg salaries = $79,091, total salaries = $16,022,012
    In FY10 teaching position = 195.6, avg salaries = $83,865, total salaries = $16,405,343
    Here is my explanation of the data: in FY07 we added 17 positions and since new hires tend to be more recent graduates they start at a lower salary and this brought the average down. However, one year later we reduced staff by 31 positions, but because the reduction in staff is based on seniority many of the positions cut were the lower paid teachers. This is a big part of why average salary increased by $9000. Thus even though we cut 31 positions we only reduced total salaries cost by $88,000. To be fair if the number of staff positions had remained at the FY07 level there would have been some increase in average salary so the total savings were probably more like $300,000 to $400,000 (see note 1). However, one year later in FY09 we decrease staff by another 9 positions yet total salaries increased by $618,000.
    I assume the 31 reduction in FY07 teaching position were mostly related to the moving grades 1-5 out of Loker. But as we can see based a 14% average salary increase in FY08 followed by a 8.3% increase in FY09 that any saving were largely gone if not totally gone by FY09.
    Since Loker remains open for K we still need to maintain the building so most of the saving had to be in reduction of staff. I donít know if the kids that would have gone to Loker are now getting a better education in the other two elementary schools, but if not the rational for moving grades 1-5 out of Loker seems weak.
    In addition the increase of 17 positions in FY07 follow by a reduction of 31 in FY08 seem to indicate very short term thinking resulting in less the optimum fiscal management. Also the process of hiring and reducing staff has an added cost in time and money beyond just salary costs.
    Note-1: Between FY04 and FY05 and teaching staff increased by only 2.6 and average salary by $965.

  2. #2
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    The School Committee's accounting of the reconfiguration costs savings for FY2009 (I think that I have the year correct) is here.

  3. #3
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    The above analysis is quite interesting. It represents a thoughtful look at the average teacher salary number and suggests a reasonable explanation for why average salary has moved around so much. Thanks for the work.

    I can not help but question your thesis and hope that you can explain it to us. Why do you state "that any saving were largely gone if not totally gone by FY09" when previously you cite salary savings "so the total savings were probably more like $300,000 to $400,000". If the savings by reducing headcount is like you suggest why wouldn't the savings for future years be even greater. Teacher contracts have a significant increase built in after the 4th year so if we had kept the teachers you say were eliminated in FY07 related to the loker reconfiguration wouldn't our total salary be much higher (and our average lower)?

    I can not help but think that this analysis, while thoughtful, is similar to your other post on average salaries. Starting with a thesis and only using the data that supports the thesis while ignoring data that conflicts.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by BTDowns View Post
    Teacher contracts have a significant increase built in after the 4th year so if we had kept the teachers you say were eliminated in FY07 related to the loker reconfiguration wouldn't our total salary be much higher (and our average lower)?
    I'm not quite sure what you mean here. By law, teacher contracts cannot exceed three years. Wayland's practice has been to negotiate contracts three years at a time (in part to reduce administration time, union time, and attorney expense), but one or two year contracts are also possible.

  5. #5
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    Sorry I am sure I used the wrong words. I meant that a first year teacher makes approximately 20% less than a teacher with 5 years experience. So as DSchuler points out the savings are compounded over time. I think the term is step changes in the contract.

  6. #6
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    I’ll give a little on the Loker reduction saving but not all the way. I think the real triggering event that got things off on the wrong foot was the 17 staff increase in FY07 followed by the need to cut staff by 31 positions in FY08. If the School Committee had taken a longer multi-years view starting in FY06 we would be in a much better place. For example, if in FY06 we realized that increasing salaries, increases in other costs and a slight decrease in student population would require/allow a decrease in the number of teaching positions over the next four years a different approached may have been chosen.
    I ran some numbers based on these assumptions: normal attrition of 4 teachers each year either through retirement or resignation (or at any rate the staff decreases by that amount) and that average salary number increases by 3.5% per year. (Note in normal attrition most of the decrease would be from teachers retiring and since they have the most experience and thus the highest salaries the average teacher would see an increase somewhat higher than 3.5% (A retiring rate of 1.5% would result in 3 per year on average)).
    If we start in FY06 and avoided the 17 position staff increase in FY07 I get the following numbers:

    In FY06 teaching position = 225.3, avg salaries = $65,817, total salaries = $14,829,780
    In FY07 teaching position = 221.3, avg salaries = $68,121, total salaries = $15,075,088
    In FY08 teaching position = 217.3, avg salaries = $70,505, total salaries = $15,320,696
    In FY09 teaching position = 213.3, avg salaries = $72,972, total salaries = $15,565,031
    In FY10 teaching position = 209.3, avg salaries = $75,527, total salaries = $15,807,701

    Thus in FY10 we end with 14 more teaching positions at a total salary cost about $600,000 less than what we actually had. BTW this seems to be the approach Weston and Wellesley took as their staffing was much more even than ours. I think this would also have given us a better mix of experience level as now it seem to be weighted heavily toward the top end.
    The hope this isn’t too wonky for people, but I think it's really important with Wayland having one of the highest tax rates and some worthwhile project having trouble getting approved.

  7. #7
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    Don (I think it's Don--if not, my apologies for the error), I'm not sure that I'm following your salary analysis or your conflation of it with savings resulting from the elementary school reconfiguration.

    To the former point, it appears that you're saying that by anticipating future enrollments well in advance, we'd be able to gradually adjust staffing. The reality is that the specifics of enrollment by grade and the course offerings that match this enrollment in a particular year create a puzzle that has to be solved roughly 9 months before the next school year starts and then adjusted once the students actually arrive. Put another way, the budget is built from the ground up each year based on the best estimate of the students the district will be educating.

  8. #8
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    I was trying to point out that reducing staff (if required) though natural attrition leads to a different and in my opinion a better (more teachers at lower cost, with a mix of experience levels) than what actually occurred in our case. Thus staffing decisions must consider effects over a several year time frame (partly because we have 3 year contracts) and not year to year (and maybe it was done I just don’t know).
    Having the big staff increase in FY06 and not realizing that would be partly/mostly responsible for an even bigger decrease in FY07 as the best/only way to control the budget, thus leading to the need to move grades 1-5 out of Loker.

    That's about as close as I can get. And yes it's Don

  9. #9
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    Don, the Wayland Public Schools DO reduce staff via natural attrition within the constraints of year-over-year enrollment changes. Of course, if financially-driven reductions affect more positions, seniority is one of several factors that comes into play.

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