It is our duty as your MBUTA elected leaders to provide you with all the details concerning your health and welfare benefits, salary increase(s), and professional development–as those items stand today at the negotiating table. The email you received from Dr. Matthews on March 26 paints with a broad brush, and as we know, the devil is in the details. The following bulletin is meant to fully address the issue of healthcare, the MBUSD budget, and MBUTA’s advocacy for our members.
The facts about our Health Care benefits:
Under our current contract the district’s annual contribution toward teachers’ health and welfare benefits is equivalent to 80% of the teachers’ annual premium costs (section 17.2 Master Contract). The 80/20 split has helped to offset an even bigger hit to our wallets the last 10 years; as we’ve weathered an ever-decreasing purchasing power due to lack of consistent salary increases, our financial burden of fluctuations in health care costs has been minimized because of the assurance this agreement provided. Under the district’s proposal, we would bear a greater financial risk–one that exposes us individually to a greater degree than the district would experience as a whole. The plan places a cap on spending levels and anything beyond a 3% increase in the first year would be passed along to teachers, (recently we’ve seen about 5 to 6 percent increase per annum though in some years it has reached as high as 13%), thus dipping into, or completely negating, any salary increase we would have negotiated. Taken the most conservative assumptions, the employee share of monthly family coverage could increase from $371 today to $1750 or more after 15 years, compared to $932 under the 80/20 plan. That is $8180/year of lost purchasing power. We would need to insure a 15% increase in salary in the next 15 years for a mid-schedule teacher just to compensate for that loss and we have yet to give consideration to 15 years of inflation which can conservatively exceed 35 percent. We would have to average an annual 3-4% salary increase just to keep from falling behind. In the last 6 years, we have been able to secure only 3% in total, and only with a fight. The 80/20 split provided built-in protection and will continue to do so, but only if maintained.
Our current budget is astounding. In Rick Bagley’s board presentation on March 19 he stated that we have a 5% reserve and our budget is projected to erase 28% of the funding gap (missing money toward where funding should be) in 2015 and 33% in 2016. A closer look at MBUSD’s budget reveals that the District has decided to stash 5% in a reserve for economic uncertainty when the state requires 3%, and elsewhere in the General Fund, there is nearly another 7% that is undesignated. This means that instead of the 5% claimed by Rick Bagley, there is in reality a nearly 12% reserve (and this is before looking at the District’s other funds that each hold their own reserves). Even closer scrutiny exposes the District’s ongoing strategy of greatly overestimating expenditures and ridiculously underestimating revenue. In light of this disingenuous presentation of the District’s financial standing, we must continue to urge our members and the public to question every statement the District makes about its ability to compensate us fairly.
Do we think it’s reasonable for our members to take on the financial burden of unknown fluctuations in healthcare costs when our district’s financial situation is the best it’s been in 10 years? Of course not. Our negotiating team will continue to advocate for our members to maintain the 80/20 split when we meet with the district and mediator on April 17.
In the meantime, it is untenable that Dr. Matthews’ would propose a “health insurance committee” as it is akin to asking teachers to join the district’s side of the negotiating table. We dissuade you from undermining the hard work of our negotiating team by signing up for Dr. Matthews committee. Additionally, we are concerned about the invitation issued by Dr. Matthews for you to address questions about negotiations to him. MBUTA is the sole representative of our members, and we are charged with interpreting the impact negotiations will have on your working conditions. While Dr. Matthews is within his rights to address the employees under his supervision, his remarks regarding “MBUTA members” approaching him for information are out of line and possibly a violation of labor law. He should exercise greater discretion when referencing private email correspondence not addressed to him and not intended for his perusal.
We also welcome you to email us with any questions or concerns you might have.
Shawn Chen, President
Lauri Gonalons, Vice President
Bill Fauver, Vice President
Linda Daly, Secretary/Treasurer