In Good Times And Bad

I know we live in perilous times.  I understand the reasoning behind demands for wage freezes for town employees — the police officers, firefighters, public works employees, secretaries and teachers who make Westport “Westport.”

To help out, I am willing to forgo the contractually agreed-upon increase in my Staples coaching salary this year.

But I also wonder why, when times are flush — as they were not long ago — I did not hear similar requests to reopen contracts, and give something extra back to these same folks.

The door swings both ways.

8 responses to “In Good Times And Bad

  1. Chip Stephens

    Check the doors in any house, most all open and close one way. Dan I got to disagree with you but want first to praise you for your sacrifice on not taking your coaching salary increase. The key word is sacrifice which each of us is currently doing in the tough times. Houses being sold or lost, college being put off, stress at home high.
    Westport teachers are the best in the nation and appreciated by all of us that have been taught by them, have kids that are taught by them , and those that do not have kids whose real-estate values are higher due to them. They are also some of the best compensated teachers in the land with retirements that are guaranteed, unlike most of the rest of us who watch IRAs shrink and pensions cancelled due to bankruptcies. Sacrifice is a strong and special word and should not be involved with talk of reward, it negates the meaning.
    Thank you for your gesture Dan, now if Elliott did it, and Eddie asked the union to consider it maybe a few positions or courses could be saved.

    • Thanks, Chip. Perhaps not my greatest analogy — I meant to imply that when a door opens, people can walk through in both directions. My bad.

      I hope this discussion involves not just teachers, but all town employees — and I look forward to more reactions. I hope there will be many, on all sides of the issue.

  2. Jonathan Steinberg

    Dan:

    I agree with Chip: the times are extraordinary and shared sacrifice is the order of the day. The Town is cutting 16 FTEs, many long-serving, dedicated employees.

    The WEA forces the Superintendent’s hand when refusing to forego even a portion of their contractual increase, which may lead to job losses that directly affect the quality of education (reference cancellation of the “Collab” class).

    Can we guarantee that the BoE will remember any concessions the WEA makes at the next contract negotiations? No, but I’d bet the WEA will remind them and foster a spirit of good will.

    Stamford and at least one other Fairfield County BoF has informed their BoE that they’re cutting further and it’s up to the BoE to find the savings. I’ve already heard rumblings among RTM members that they favor further BoE cuts, based on the accrued fat of a decade of Elliott.

    Frankly, I don’t favor additional cuts in a reactive mode, preferring to engage in a more deliberate, in-depth review of operational assumptions and infrastructure justification that will yield sustainable savings without impacting educational quality. But Elliott and the WEA have inflamed the passions of many of us who may not be restrained.

    Kudos to you, Dan, for your genuine sacrifice. Others need to step up as well — or we’ll all face the draconian consequences…

  3. Take it easy ya all … let’s not confuse the BOE with all the other town employees that serve everybody everyday….gave up the private sector for low pay and job security…now being thrown under the bus for the cause. Get rid of a few union people getting low wages will not cure the problem but indeed supply less to the taxpayer that indeed deserve what taxes pay for. Yes…follow the money and start at the top of the BOE administration and protect the town side services.

  4. What’s really been going on for the past couple of decades — at the Federal, state and local levels — has been a massive transference of risk to the taxpayers, away from public-sector employees. Few private-sector employees have defined-benefit pensions any more, but the public-sectors unions fight tooth & nail to hand onto theirs. So when there’s a downturn, as in 2008/9, public-sector retirees are untouched, whereas the taxpayers suffer a bloodbath — losing job security, losing in their 410Ks, and sacrificing even further via increased taxes, to support the generous pensions of those on the public-sector side. Recent analysis in the media points to the discrepancy. It’s a better move financially to take a public-sector job with fat retirement benefits after 20 years of service, than to take a private-sector job, even at a much higher salary, Eventually the taxpayers will have a light-bulb moment and start to push back — but for the moment the FUD generated by the public-sector side — in particular the false claim that public-sector employees are low-paid — has carried the day.

  5. Dear SH,
    Be real and let’s stick with Westport where the average municipal town worker earns less then $50,000 a year. Try living anywhere in the area on that! I am not talking about the stereotype of big city metropolitan fat cats. Also, as in the private sector, lost on 401k (which is contributed to by only the employee) and where the retirement calculation is based on an approximate 2%. We are not talking about non-union supervisory personnel with $100,000 plus incomes and maximum benefits. These servants of the town are being approached with pay freezes, non paid furloughs, and defined-benefit plans and most problematic for all….layoffs. These are the folks who daily care for your marinas, beaches, golf and tennis facilities, parks, building maintenance, and roads just for starters. Do Westport taxpayers want to place these entitlements (by paying the taxes) in jeopardy or find another place to save the dollars? Remember that the average household income is about $200.000 and the top 25% is much higher. Who do you think should carry the majority of the burden here? Think about town quality and how that has enhanced your property values over the years. If the average taxpayer was given the choice of a modest tax increase (under $20 per month…less then a bottle of wine or a haircut) to keep current services, what would be the answer? No question!

  6. Hey – a local website on which I am not banned from commenting! Cool!

    Steve – easy for you to say “no question” because you have benefitted from a Town paycheck, no? I’d personally like to keep the $20 in my pocket.

    While municipal employees do a generally competent job, the education system and the proximity to NYC is what has fueled property values. Those suggesting otherwise are kidding themselves.

    Where does the spending stop? Or even slow?

    The problem here is that nobody kept spending in check when times were good and now everyone is freaking out at the shocking thought of fiscal discipline.

    Dan, your gesture is honorable. But I think Town contracts have been comparatively generous. Additionally (specifically looking at Ed budgets), if it hasn’t been the individual payoff (which is seen in the routine double-benefit of regular increases combined with step increases), it has been in the crazy ratio of staff increases – one FTE for each eight new students, in recent years. That was the door swinging the other way.

    • I think I deserve to keep my paycheck…I deserve it and think most Westport resident taxpayers agree. If you really need the $20.00 I will consider returning it to you as long as the hard working, low paid workers are not the victims of layoffs. $20.00 is a small price to pay so as not to destroy the lives of devoted town servants and maintain the quality of Westport. Everybody is entitled to representation!