Educate UA recognizes the value of schools within our community. We also recognize the tough economic conditions and the need to be far more efficient with our existing resources.
With a $15,172 cost per student, the UA school district is in a position to provide the highest academic standards well into the future, especially considering that the 20 most-similar school districts across the state average $10,878 per student. In fact, if UA schools operated as efficiently as the similar districts, the taxpayer could see $24.5 million in savings.
Double retirements, double dipping and unsustainable compensation packages have led to the inflated cost per student. With the superintendent collecting $270,000 in total compensation (including $69,000 yearly in taxpayer-funded retirement) and administrators receiving 9-percent annuities on top of their already generous STRS retirement plan, it is OK to say no to further increases at this time.
Additionally, the district's family health care plan of nearly $20,000 per employee far exceeds what the average UA voter can obtain for himself, especially when school employees currently pay only 10.2 percent of those costs, increasing to just 15 percent in two years.
These benefits have led to an average total compensation for a UA administrator of $158,000 and for a UA teacher of $104,900.
Educate UA asks for a re-allocation of taxpayer funds away from excessive compensation and into the classroom. With the district providing employee benefits 40 percent above market and directing 85 cents of every taxpayer dollar into wages and benefits, there is room to realize savings.
For instance, changes in the cost and cost-sharing of the district health care plan could create more than $2.5 million annually in savings to the taxpayer.
Indeed, the district has acknowledged the compensation problem by instituting a two-year base salary freeze for teachers and a one-year freeze for administrators.
But, with teachers' salaries still increasing due to step raises, far more can be done given that salaries are already well above market.
The school levy, calculated to generate $9.2 million in additional funds to cover a $2.1-million loss in state funding, will require the average UA homeowner (with a home valued at $327,046) to pay $582 more per year in taxes.
UA taxpayers have seen their incomes remain flat or decrease. They have seen significant losses in their retirement savings and they have seen no increase in their Social Security checks.
Voters need to keep in mind that the financial decisions we make today will affect our children. Voting no on Issue 51 for lower taxes ensures that the UA students of today will be able to afford a UA education for their children in the future.
It will also ensure that the retirees who have invested in the schools for so many years will be able to remain in the homes they cherish.
Educate UA urges UA voters to vote no on Issue 51. It's OK to say no.
Joyce Blake is treasurer of Educate UA and is a retired Upper Arlington High School math teacher.