Pennsbury Contract Talks Begin With ‘Meet and Greet’

January 13, 2010 – In The News
Bucks Local News

Jeffrey Sultanik is the chief negotiator for the Pennsbury School Board during its contract negotiations with the Pennsbury Education Association that began Jan. 7. Sultanik represented the board in the one-year extension to the current collective bargaining agreement.

Representing the school board, Sultanik said the first session was procedural where the district and the PEA representatives met in order to comply with Act 88 of 1992, which is the law that governs bargaining in the district.

Sultanik said general factors, which are impacting bargaining in the district, were discussed. Those factors, according to Sultanik, are:

  • “Because the district has a state aid ratio of less than 0.4, our Act 1 Index limitation, the maximum amount we can raise taxes is 2.9 percent for 2010-2011. Experts are telling us that index will drop to anywhere from 1.8 to 2.1 percent for the 2011-2012 school year.
  • “We talked about the fact that because of the economic collapse in October 2008; the district has faced an onslaught of real estate tax assessment appeals that are substantively cutting into the district’s revenue stream.
  • “Because of the economic collapse, we are not able to get any substantive money on our investments because of the low interest rate.
  • “As the result of the economic collapse, we are not getting any transfer tax in real estate. When properties get sold and turn over, we get a percentile of the tax.
  • “The consumer price index was in a negative territory or at zero.
  • “Our health-benefit costs continue to increase and we are self-insured so it’s more difficult to predict, but the trend is clearly upward and substantial in excess of Act 1 index in terms of what we can raise in taxes.
  • “The district is also in a financial position where it has not maintained a large fund balance. In fact, it is small in relationship to our budget — $174 million. The fund balance is only approximately $725,000.
  • “The cost of funding the pension of employees has dramatically increased and continues to increase geometrically…It’s going up not on a straight basis. It’s going up on a dramatic level.

“We are currently paying about 4.8 percent of salaries or pensions,” Sultanik said. “That will go up to 8.3 percent – almost an 85 percent increase in what we pay for pensions. That’s state law – we don’t have a choice. That number is going to go up 35 percent for salaries by 2014-2015.

“That is so high that it has the potential of bankrupting every school district and municipality in the state. It is a crisis of unprecedented proportions,” he said.