Saturday, July 3, 2010

The End of "Personal Appliance Fees"?

At the July 1 meeting of the school board's Finance Committee, feedback from the June 20th Budget Hearing was on the agenda. Citizen Representative Rick Mealy strongly encouraged the Finance Committee vote to discontinue the personal appliance fees, noting that the $3,000 collected in fees had created a far greater dent in employee morale than they did on reducing the $70 million dollar budget.

As expected, Finance Chair Jim McCourt was quick with a rebuttal. McCourt cited the numerous occasions on which Mealy had spoken out against small dollar items such as pizza and flowers, and now Mealy seemed to be reversing himself by desiring to cut a revenue source.

Not so fast, Mr. Seabass!
Mealy parried McCourt's verbal thrust by pointing out that one of the main flaws in the personal appliance fee decision was the way the fees were being applied without a shred of equity. Mealy cited accounts of staff people who had simply refused to pay the ridiculous fees--without reprisal. Neither McCourt nor Phil Frei refuted these accounts. Mealy went on to say that if the district was not prepared to fully enforce the appliance fees, then they must be eliminated. Make them fair and equitable, or make them go away.

Appliance Fees a Retaliatory Strike Against Teachers?
McCourt tied to explain that the Appliance Fees were enacted because the Administrators (voluntarily) and Local 60 staff (mandatory) were subject to a one day furlough to help ease the budget. McCourt noted that the teachers' union--SPEA-- declined to accept a voluntary furlough day. Because everyone must be made to "feel the pain" of the electors' decision to reduce the tax levy (and, per Caren Diedrich, because the teachers are using up electricity on the taxpayers' dime for their creature comforts), Appliance Fees were enacted.

Perhaps sensing his words had come out "wrong", McCourt very quickly stated that the appliance fees were not retaliatory in nature...just a mechanism to ensure that all employees shared in the pain of the levy reduction. Mealy, however, wasn't going to let that slip of the tongue. go. "Of course these fees were a form of retribution", Mealy responded, "and that's not the way to do business. The board approved the teachers union contract knowing full well that the economy was firmly in the grip of a recession. You don't renegotiate because you made a bad deal".

To the FTT for a Safety Discussion, Batman
The Finance Committee subsequently unanimously agreed to repeal the appliance fees. Caren Diedrich, however, added a request that the issue of personal appliance safety be discussed at a future FTT committee meeting. Diedrich is very concerned about all those coffee pots being left on over the weekend and creating an odoriferous mess--or worse-- come Monday mornings.

As with everything...this ain't over yet, folks. The appliance fee decision still requires a vote before the full board. While three members of the board voted to eliminate the appliance fees, one of those members was Caren Deidrich...and we all know that her votes have a habit of changing...especially of late. ;)