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Act 10 Saves Greendale School District Big Bucks

New report says the Greendale School District has seen a big reduction in pension and health care costs because of changes in state's collective bargaining law.

Editor's note: The story has been updated to reflect a correction in regards to the amount paid in 2011-12.

The controversial state law that eliminated most collective bargaining rights for school employees reduced benefit costs for the Greendale School District by about $1.2 million last school year, according to a report released Monday.

However, Greendale school officials say it's more than that. According to Business Manager Erin Green, the actual number is closer to $1.8 million. 

The bulk of the savings came from reductions in the district's share of employee retirement costs, the report by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance said. In the 2010-11 school year, Greendale paid $878,617 toward pension costs for workers.

In 2011-12, about $32,500 of the Employee Share of the pension (WRS) was paid by the employer. This does not include the Employer Share of the WRS pension cost.  Until the year 2011-12, the Employer paid both halves (Employee and Employer).  

Green also said the district saved about $240,000 from elimination of teacher longevity pay increases.

The district also saved more than $317,000 in health insurance costs, according to the report, which was based on data that public school districts provide to the state Department of Public Instruction. In 2010-11, Greendale spent $3.2 million on health care costs; that fell to $2.8 million last school year.

$366 million saved statewide

School districts across the state reduced benefit costs by $366 million this year, according to the report, which the organization says is the first in-depth look at the effect of Act 10 and the 2011-13 state budget on Wisconsin schools.

Most of the statewide savings come from districts no longer paying the employee share of retirement, the group said.

Of $366.3 million in reduced benefit costs, $240.7 million — or 66 percent — was from retirement contribution savings. Before passage of the 2011-13 state budget, most school districts and other governmental entities paid both the employee and employer share of retirement costs. Now public workers are required to pay the employee portion of retirement.

Because employees can no longer bargain over benefits under Act 10, many school districts increased health insurance co-payments, required higher cost sharing by employees or changed health insurance providers to reduce costs.

In 2012, public school health insurance costs fell $90.7 million, or 24.8%, from 2011 levels, the group said.

Other highlights of the report:

  • Total school district spending dropped $584 million in 2011-12, with 63 percent of that coming from benefit savings.
  • Lower salary costs saved districts $124.9 million, while other cost-cutting totaled $93.1 million.
  • Reduced salary costs were due to a combination of staff retirements and layoffs. In 2011-12, school districts employed 2,312 fewer staff than in 2010-11, a 2.3 percent reduction.

Report called GOP 'propaganda'

The report was not without some controversy, however.

Soon after it was released Monday, a group called One Wisconsin Now blasted it as "propaganda" to help Gov. Scott Walker as he "prepares to put Wisconsin’s children and public schools further in the hole by shifting resources to planned tax cuts to benefit the rich and corporations."

“Predictably, as Scott Walker begins making the case to hand out huge tax breaks to the rich and corporations, the corporate front group WISTAX tosses out propaganda to support his case,” said Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now. “The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance is even more Republican than Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, so this is hardly a surprise and their 'findings' should be taken with a grain of salt as big as Scott Walker's campaign finance report."

One Wisconsin Now said its review of campaign contributions made by board members of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance showed that 92 percent of the $1.4 million in  donations went to Republicans.

CowDung November 12, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Funny how 'One Wisconsin Now' dismisses the report as 'propaganda', but doesn't seem to dispute any of the numbers presented in the report...
Juliet November 12, 2012 at 10:27 PM
These numbers don't look write to the average Joe on the corner. The pension number looks too low. So what is the school board and administrators going to do next year to make the budget balance? What will the teachers accept or will they start going to another public school district? Morale isn't too good and there still is a teacher's union in Greendale public schools right? So what is going on union leaders and board members?
Mark November 13, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Great question Juliet. All we will hear is nothing from the board members and the new superintendent. As a parent, I will tell you, the new superintendent is not around Greendale. I see Hughes more than I see what's his name. And Hughes doesn't work here anymore.
KHD November 13, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Well, Juliet, I would start by making public employees pay 25% of their health care costs. Raise deductables to $4000, and up the co-pays. After all, this is the average that families pay in southeastern wi. I know alot of bright, young teachers that would jump at the chance to work in the district. The taxpayers are sick and tired of hearing all the retoric. Sick and tired of paying our heath costs and paying for the great benefits that the teachers have. The union can only bargain for wages and those are capped. Scott Walker did us all a favor by passing act 10.
Bren November 13, 2012 at 12:36 AM
The district may be saving money on the backs of teachers which is great in the short term perhaps, but it will be interesting to see what happens over the next 3-5 years in terms of teacher retention. Teacher turnover, if it occurs, will have an impact on instructional continuity. Lower pay, as gleaned from a Texas study, tends to attract the inexperienced and incompetent teachers. Qualified instructors gravitate toward districts that provide better pay and working conditions.
Mark November 13, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Thank you for the comments. I am waiting and we will all be waiting to hear from the superintendent and board of education. It means taking a position and standing for something. Good thing the spring elections are coming and we can kick out the long term board members and maybe then the new superintendent of Greendale public schools can take a stand for something other than collecting a pay check. Word is, he really doesn't know what he is doing and the schools are just running on automatic.
Mark November 13, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Oh Ya: Has any one realized the teachers union controls the school board. There is a union member on the board and most of the board supports WEAC. In a town that is for Governor Walker by a majority of voters. Watch for the teacher's union and board members to sign a new contract shortly that will be anti Act Ten.
Jennie Stoltz November 13, 2012 at 03:25 AM
I seriously question these figures as well. In 2011 Employees on the state pension plan had 11.2% of their salary go to pension and that amount was paid by the employer (Greendale). Act 10 made it so employees have to pay half of the pension payment (5.6% in 2011). So where it says "Greendale paid $878,617 million toward pension costs for workers; in 2011-12, that dropped to $32,426, the report said" - I do not understand how that pension cost would have dropped down much less than half. I can only figure that Greendale is not part of the state plan and they have for all intents and purposes eliminated paying any pension for the majority of their employees. Yes, let's see how well they retain staff. And I'll say it again even though most pro-Walker people do not seem to get it, public employees have been accepting lower salaries and minute raises for years in exchange for keeping stable and good benefits. When the economy is booming public employees do not get bigger raises or bonuses (like private sector employees often get) yet when the economy is in trouble people think what we are getting is unfair. You get what you pay for people.
CowDung November 13, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Is this district truly offering a significantly lower compensation package or significantly different working conditions than other school districts in the area?
Rschneed November 13, 2012 at 05:19 PM
A union member on the school board - Wrong! Teachers signing a new contract soon that is anti ACT 10 - Wrong, again. The teachers recently signed a contract that is in line with ACT 10. Please check facts before you post what "the word on the street is" or what you heard.
CowDung November 13, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Melanie Kuzmanovic is employed by the Oak Creek HS as a school counselor--is she non-union?
Rschneed November 13, 2012 at 05:55 PM
The implication was that a Greendale teacher is on the board.
CowDung November 13, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Not the way I read it.
Bren November 13, 2012 at 08:54 PM
It's a good question. As far as the longer-term impact we'll have to wait and see. I'm not sure how reducing more people's household income is going to bolster the local and national economy, either. The Greendale School District wasn't on the financial ropes prior to Act 10 as far as I know, unlike some other school districts. These actions seem in a way gratuitous.
CowDung November 13, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Are we just 'reducing more people's household income'? It seems to me that we are reducing everyone's tax burden. That money doesn't vanish or just disappear from the economy...
KHD November 13, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Jeanie Stoltz- I don't think that you get it !! What bigger raises and bonuses are you talking about? The private sector has been getting on average, a 3% raise for the last 15 years. While their health car premiums have been going up double digits in that time. The fact is you have been getting better raises than most. what is your share of your health care pemium? 12.5 %. Cry me a river. If you think you can do better in the private sector, go and try it. I think you will be surprised at the job offers you will get. Let us know how that works out for you. I, for one, am not afraid of the so called turnover you say will happen. There will be people chomping at the bit for your job. It is about time you people realise how the real world looks.
John November 14, 2012 at 01:18 AM
After watching the school district and trying to change them I have several comments: 1. The board of education, administration, and union have a long term mutually beneficial relationship. 2. Average teacher raises were more than 3% when calculating the step and lane change. Greendale teachers are paid at the top of the State and Milwaukee are. 3. Administration is highly paid as well and the board are in lock step taking the lead from the administration. I would call them a ceremonial board - not an effective governing group that looks out for the community or students. They look out for the staff first and foremost. 4. Greendale needs to wake up and see how out of touch the board, teachers and management of the school district is and has been. JM
MaryKate November 14, 2012 at 02:51 AM
One last thing. Every group that tried to change the board gets crushed by team work of the teacher's union, the board members, and administration aided by parents who have their kid's self interest in mind. Taxpayers and parents, just know, it is about the teachers first in Greendale. They have their union member on the board now. So Mark is right - watch for a sweetheart deal for the teacher's union and no comment from the administration or board when they pay them off again and make more cuts to the kid's programs!
KHD November 14, 2012 at 11:23 AM
John - MaryKate : I couldn't agree more with the both of you. When act 10 was going to be implemented, the cry wassss, it will hurt the kids !!! What a bunch of hoooey that was. Its all about themselves first.
Rschneed November 14, 2012 at 04:49 PM
I mentioned it above, but it is worth repeating: the Greendale teachers settled a contract recently that is in lock-step with ACT 10. Remember, rumors are easy to start but almost impossible to stop.
Marvin November 16, 2012 at 01:42 AM
As Mark said, Watch the Greendale Public Schools give the teachers a bigger raise then they have to. Rschneed sounds like a Greendale Teacher. Instead of a raise to the highest paid teachers in the state, how about giving the money to the principals to do more for the children? No, that would mean teachers are unhappy, morale drops and then they don't teach so well...A look at the school reports with the state show, the performance is dropping!

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