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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.

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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