Skyrocketing public pension costs are eroding educational opportunities for New York children

by Grace

Skyrocketing public pension costs, the single most burdensome state-imposed mandate, are slowly but surely eroding educational opportunities for the children of New York.

Our local school district’s pension costs have risen over 50% in the last two years.
During that same time, instructional salaries have increased only 6.9% and the entire budget only 6.0%. The actual dollar amount of additional pension costs has surpassed that of salary increases.  Meanwhile, most other expenses that affect students directly, including sports, music and instructional staff, have been cut to compensate for soaring pension costs.

This same scenario is being played out at public schools throughout the state.  At Pelham, a nearby school district, their pension costs have also increased 50% in the last two years.

Pelham schools’ budget plan cuts jobs, adds $2.3M; benefits blamed
… budget calls for $65,523,020 in spending, an increase of $2.3 million from the current year. The superintendent pinned much of that increase on ever-climbing health care and pension costs.

More:

In New York City … pension costs now eat up one in every six tax dollars that city residents pay — and 12% of the entire city budget. That’s more than the operations of the Police, Fire and Sanitation departments combined.

Deficits Push N.Y. Cities and Counties to Desperation
Pension costs are a particular problem. The stock market collapse of 2008 decimated public pension fund investments, and municipalities are now being asked for greater contributions to make up for the losses. The impact has been drastic: Three percent of New York property tax collections were used to pay pension costs in 2001; by 2015, pension costs are expected to eat up 35 percent of property tax collections.

Our school district’s pension costs as a percentage of the total budget have grown from 5.1% to 7.2% over the last three years.  This is not a good trend.  If they continue to rise as expected, today’s relatively modest cuts to student services will be looked upon as the “good old days”.

Meanwhile, in their highly promoted mandate relief advocacy campaign our school leaders have chosen to ignore pensions.  Instead, they have highlighted those mandates that affect our students directly, like special education.  They make no mention of the pension mandate, which is the one having the most negative impact on our children.

Conveniently, pension costs were exempted from the state’s 2% property tax cap on property tax increases recently imposed on school districts.  This carve-out was a nice special treatment for teachers.

Wages and benefits outpacing inflation combined with reduced student services.  Is this the future for New York public education?

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