Posts Tagged ‘merit pay’

Legislature Votes To Cut Pay To State And University Workers

By Andrew Doughman | 3:54 pm May 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Legislators on money committees today approved on a party-line vote a 4.8 percent salary cut to state and higher education employees.

The proposal would include a 2.3 percent cut through furloughs – about six days per year – and a 2.5 percent salary reduction.

Gov. Brian Sandoval had proposed in his budget a 5 percent salary cut to state and higher education workers.

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, advanced the 4.8 percent “compromise” cut. Legislative staff said it would create a shortfall between $7.5 and $10 million in the governor’s budget.

The vote passed with all Democrats voting for the idea and all Republicans voting against it. In an earlier vote, Republicans voted to follow the governor’s recommendation while Democrats voted against it.

Republicans characterized the salary reductions and cuts to benefits as similar to reductions in the private sector.

“What we are seeing here is a continuation of that downsizing,” said Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno.

Democrats contended that government does not operate like private businesses; rather than seeing less business during a recession, more people depend on state services in a recession.

“If we are going to apply true business principles to government, we should be hiring right now … our demand is way up,” said Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.

Union representatives and higher education faculty testified against the cuts, saying that they much preferred furloughs to salary cuts.

Danny Thompson of the AFL-CIO also said that reductions in the governor’s budget have provoked a grassroots movement that could punish Republicans during next year’s elections.

“I would caution you that if you don’t solve this problem, that organic uprising that has already happened is going to spread and the people are going to solve this problem,” Thompson said.

Legislators also voted to continue suspending merit and longevity pay as well as eliminating holiday premium pay for higher education and state workers. Legislative staff said that these decisions should save the state $71.5 million.

Yesterday, legislators voted to curtail health care benefits for public sector employees.

Public sector employee union representatives said they have already endured these reductions in pay and benefits for several years as Nevada has struggled through the recession.

“It is so totally unfair what we are doing to our state government,” said Jan Gilbert of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

The governor has earlier argued that furlough days resulted in less productivity from employees, causing longer lines at places such as the DMV.

None of the votes are binding, and the Legislature may decide to alter the proposals as they finalize the budget.

Legislative committees last week voted not to reduce pay for school district employees nor did they choose to suspend merit pay for school district employees.

Those decisions could cost the state $402 million during the next two years.

Democrats last week proposed a revenue package totaling about $1.2 billion comprising a continuation of taxes approved by the 2009 Legislature and scheduled to end this year as well as a tax on businesses’ gross revenue and a sales tax on some services.

If passed, these tax increases could pay for that $402 million cost.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, also noted a potential budget consequence in cutting salaries. He said that the sustained compensation cuts could lead some state workers to favor retirement over working for less.

Dana Bilyeu of the Public Employees’ Retirement System estimated that 2,000 current state employees are eligible to collect full retirement benefits.

Should they choose to retire, the state would have an unfunded obligation to cash out those retiring employees for accrued sick leave, she said.

Bilyeu and others in the committee room could not estimate a cost, but she said about 1,000 more teachers than usual retired due to changes in benefits following the 2007 legislative session, causing the state to lose millions of dollars.

 

 

 

Governor’s Education Bills Get First Vetting in Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 9:33 pm April 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval has said before that he can reform Nevada’s education system while still reducing the budget allotted to the state’s K-12 system.

But the cost of several of his proposals drew opposition at a legislative hearing today.

Assembly Bills 554 and 557 would establish a $20 million pot of merit pay for teachers, allow for open enrollment at schools regardless of geographic boundary, give letter grades to schools and end the policy of social promotion.

Representatives from the school districts of Clark and Washoe counties said the reforms, while laudable, required more money than Sandoval has budgeted for.

Joyce Haldeman of the Clark County School District said that pay for performance – basically, a system of awarding bonuses to good teachers – comes at the expense of cuts to programs like class-size reduction and full-day kindergarten.

“Without the resources, this bill is a difficult task for the school districts,” said Craig Hulse of the Washoe County School District.

On the issue of social promotion, legislators asked about the costs and how many students could be held back under the proposal.

Social promotion is a policy whereby students jump from grade to grade regardless of how much they learn each year.

Ending that policy would mean students who cannot read at grade level may be held back, or face summer school or other remediation. These extra programs could potentially cost the state money.

Dale Erquiaga, Sandoval’s senior adviser, said he did not have an estimate of how many students would be affected.

He did, however, criticize the state’s current policy, saying it leads students to failure.

“Unfortunately it causes critical failure later in the system,” Erquiaga said. “They’re going to fail, they’re going to drop out, they will not graduate later in life.”

Legislators on the Assembly Education committee considering the bills usually debate the policy measures of bills. But during this budget-conscious session, money seems like a difficult issue to avoid.

Craig Stevens of the Nevada State Education Association argued against the merit pay bill not for its policy, but because of the context surrounding the bill.

He said it was wrong to cut the pay teachers currently receive for the years they have worked and the advanced degrees they have attained – totals for which run into the hundreds of millions – and replace that with $20 million in merit pay.

The open enrollment and letter grade sections of the bills were not as controversial. Ken Turner of the Clark County School District, however, said that the school district opposes grading schools with letter grades because that system is too simplistic.

The committee did not yet vote on the bills, instead cutting the meeting short and ending at 8 p.m.