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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 24, 2011
“We want to do our part”
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND For the second year in a row, Guilderland’s three assistant superintendents have agreed to forego raises.
Last year, in the midst of a budget crisis, when then-superintendent John McGuire asked each of the district’s 12 bargaining units to consider wage freezes, only the three-member unit of assistant superintendents and their six-member district-office staff did so. Several other units made smaller concessions, like working a day less without pay or paying a slightly higher percentage of health-insurance costs.
“We did it for much the same reason this year as last year,” Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders told The Enterprise yesterday. “We want the children in our district to have the best opportunities possible and we want to save as many programs as we can.”
To close a $4 million budget gap while keeping the tax-rate hike under 4 percent, superintendent Marie Wiles has proposed an $89 million budget for next year that would cut 44 jobs.
Sanders said yesterday, “We know better than anybody the magnitude of reductions…We want to do our part.”
While Guilderland employees typically pay 20 percent of their health-insurance costs and the district pays 80 percent, the three assistant superintendents have agreed to pay 30 percent. That contribution, Sanders said, is being offset by an equal amount in salary.
Sanders has been Guilderland’s assistant superintendent for business for over seven years. His salary this year is $136,612, and will be the same again next year.
The assistant superintendent for human resources, Lin Severance, earns $124,202. The assistant superintendent for instruction, Demian Singleton, earns $121,985. They have each been in their posts almost three years.
All of the assistant superintendents work 12 months of the year, as does the superintendent.
The Guilderland District Office Administrators’ Association, which is what the three-member unit of assistant superintendents is called, originally had a three-year contract that would expire on June 30, 2011. The board’s vote, made after discussion in executive session on March 8, extends that contract until June 30, 2012.
Two of the nine board members Barbara Fraterrigo and Emilio Genzano voted against it.
“We voted against the structure, not the concept,” Genzano said yesterday of no raises. “My vote was to limit the raises so the pension numbers didn’t increase…The compromise was, after a long debate, that it was only a one-year deal, so we can go back to the table again next year.”
Fraterrigo agreed. “This group has been very generous in what they offered for their fantastic services,” she told The Enterprise yesterday of the assistant superintendents. “But the taxpayer is still on the hook if you increase the salary, you increase the pension….We just keep piling on for future years.”
At Tuesday’s school-board meeting, Wiles commended the assistant superintendents for “stepping up to the plate,” calling it a “very generous gesture.”
Wiles, herself, announced at the Feb. 15 board meeting that she would not take an agreed-upon raise next year.
Wiles started work at Guilderland on Oct. 1 with an annual salary of $175,000 and had been slated for a 1-percent raise next year.
“All of this weighs heavily on me,” she said of staff members losing jobs and programs being cut, “and I need to lead as I live.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing a cap on school superintendents’ salaries, based on a district’s enrollment, which he says would save $15 million. The cap, if it is passed into law by the legislature, would be applied only as contracts expire, and districts could override the cap during the May budget votes.
For school districts with between 751 and 1,500 students, like Voorheesville and Berne-Knox-Westerlo, the proposed cap is $145,000. The BKW superintendent currently is under the cap, earning $127,000. The Voorheesville superintendent’s salary is over the cap at $153,750.
The cap for districts with between 3,001 and 6,500 students, like Guilderland and Bethlehem, would be set at $165,000. The Bethlehem superintendent currently earns $170,000 that salary has been flat for three years and will remain the same for next year. All Bethlehem administrators have agreed to freeze their salaries for next year, a move the governor commended.
“This is a responsible and sensible first step that recognizes the state’s current fiscal condition and I encourage school districts across New York to find ways to reduce costs and put children first,” Cuomo said in his statement, echoing points he made during his budget presentation.