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Thursday, June 21, 2007

West Hartford BOE: Are they capable of making decisions?

This entry is a modification of one that I placed on the West Hartford Blog this morning. Sometimes the WH Blog gets inundated with mindless dribble, sarcastic nonsense, or personal squabbling in between valued posts that either point out situations/facts or ask good questions.

And since I think my point is a valuable one, I wanted to call attention to it. Since my post on WH Blog, I did get confirmation that what I thought I saw and heard was absolutely accurate - from the perspective of someone who was actually in the room.

Yesterday, I watched some of the West Hartford Board of Education budget discussion on West Hartford Cable Access, in particular - I viewed the discussion regarding West Hartford School nurse's pay increases.

The dialogue seemed to imply that:

1) West Hartford nurses are the highest paid nurses in the district, and at one of the highest levels in the State of Connecticut.

2) Many of the nurses are in the 9th tier(?) or highest paid tier due to tenure (as it was explained)

3) Notwithstanding, their high wages, the nurses are seeking a 3.7% or 3.8% increase in their wages.

4) The increase was being justified as “cost of living” increase. The increase was NOT based on salary adjustment - meaning, the increase was not to adjust for wages found other towns or cities, etc.

5) Some interesting dialogue ensued between the participants; one concerned about what the Hartford Courant might print today, regarding increasing the nurses salaries even though they are paid the highest in the district, etc. (something to that effect).

6) Despite consensus that they are being “well paid” as stated by the BOE folks in the chamber, and without taking into account budget concerns, referendums, etc - they opted to “approve” the pay increase in a nonchalant voice vote.

When I see this behavior - particularly when we are trying to find ways to reduce the burden on taxpayers - where the evidence and discussion 1) err on the side of caution, and 2) point to the fact that this group is receiving well above-standard wages, and YET the increase simply passes, I begin to realize that those of us who feel that the West Hartford Board and West Hartford Town Council will never make tough choices to protect taxpayer's wallets are 100% correct in our thinking.

A lot of smoke and mirror dialogue comes out of the pro-budget gang. Save the children, save the elderly, and all of that nonsense - instead of facts and figures, and dollars and cents.

This was a case where the BOE could have legitimately said no or pushed back. I can see where the union or employee might fight back if they are clearly underpaid (based on experience, statistical analysis, competitive analysis, etc), but in this case - they are highly paid, in fact - the highest paid in the region, and the BOE didn’t see fit to draw a line in the sand or factor in the taxpayer’s needs.

Given this situation, isn’t it clear that the BOE has no intention in pushing back when it comes to public employee demands? No concessions seem possible, even in the most reasonable of circumstances. I find this hard to believe.

Without getting into a long diatribe about the differences between private and public sector jobs and pay scales, I have to say that there is a lack of balance in the BOE when it comes to serving the public need.

Surely, even those advocates of the budget should see that there is a problem here. And if this is the kind of shoulder shrugging - rubber stamp we can expect from the BOE and Council, then the budget battle will be worse the second time around.

If they can’t see fit to fight where ground SHOULD be held, then they will never budge on the incrementals.

West Hartford: We are in serious trouble with these folks at the helm. They obviously don't care.

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