New Bloomingdale Contract Should Include Further Cuts, BOE Member Says

Cathy Gurbisz explains why she voted against the new Bloomingdale Education Association contract.

The following is a Letter to the Editor and personal statement that was delivered by Bloomingdale Board of Education Member Cathy Gurbisz Tuesday night regarding the new Bloomingdale Education Association contract. If you'd like to submit a Letter to the Editor, send it to ariana.cohn-sheehan@patch.com

Dear Editor,

I am not in support of the 2012-2015 collective bargaining agreement. I want to make clear my decision regarding this contract is simply a reflection of
current economic times, affordability and future sustainability.

I respect and appreciate the Bloomingdale staff. I have had children in this district for 16 years, have attended my share of back-to-school nights, parent teacher conferences and have high regards for our staff. I have based my decision on what I believe is in the best interest of this community, taxpayer and student achievement while seeking fairness and equality for new and existing staff.

During the past two budgets I have expressed to this board that although cost
reduction has been implemented through shared services, reduced busing and
combined administrative rolls additional expenses need to be addressed within
the BEA Union Contract. Specifically the climbing cost of health benefits and our
costly percentage-based longevity. I was informed these matters would need to
be brought to the negotiation table.

When the 2011-12 budget failed I also presented my concerns to the borough council. After further cutting the budget I believe their message was made clear that with 53 percent of taxes funding education and a 2 percent cap, cost reduction and containment would need to be brought into negotiations.

The contract before us tonight will hold this district and taxpayers
accountable for the next three years. With the public vote on the school budget
no longer available, cost containment is the sole responsibility of this board.

The Butler education association contract was settled last year with percentage
increases of 1.9 percent, 1.6 percent and 1.5 percent. They also saw substantial savings by switching to the state health benefit plan. Butler also has a longevity plan since 2008 based on set dollar amounts, unlike ours, which still contains grandfathered percentages factored on top of base salaries strongly favoring senior staff.

The collective bargaining agreement before us tonight does not reflect any
changes in health benefits or longevity. The health benefit plan in this contract
continues to provide costly grandfathered tiers, again favoring senior staff. We
are in a struggling economy with ever climbing property taxes. We all see the
for sale signs and hear about foreclosures. Many families are struggling to do
more with less. I recently read from the NJ School Board Association that "the
goal of the board is to provide an appropriate level of staff compensation within
the financial resources available to the community."

I do not believe this contract represents an equitable financial balance in light of economic times and this communities financial resources. I respectfully vote "no" to this contract proposal.

Cathy Gurbisz

Cathy Gurbisz October 25, 2012 at 11:13 PM
This is my opinion and does not necessarily represent those of the Board. 
 Why is it that no one comes to Board of Education meetings? With so.... much (over 50%) of our taxes supporting this important area where is the public? There were maybe 6-8 people at the last meeting with only one of them being a teacher. The council election, its parties and PILOT has generated a lot of talk and passion what about the BOE? 
Anyway I encourage everyone to please get involved, come to the meetings, ask questions. Most of what we do is public information. Ask for a copy of the BEA contract and the last one. Do your own comparison make your own conclusion, be an independent thinker. This is our education system, educate yourself and make educated decisions. 
At the November 5th BOE meeting our test scores will be presented is anyone interested?


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