Great question for the snapshot this week on the early retirement incentive. Here you go.
Great question for the snapshot this week on the early retirement incentive. Here you go.
The latest snapshot video comes to you from the halls of our legislature. Check it out and please continue submitting your questions here.
Thanks and a have a great day.
Question: I try to keep up with issues involving education and specifically public education. I am aware that the idea of traditional free public education is under great scrutiny, with charter schools, school voucher programs and any other list of ideas. There are organizations that lobby for the use of our public money and resources and who are successful in the current political climate. Many of these organization advertise their “achievements” and the “failures” of traditional education platforms. Has their been any consideration in Granite, as a large organization, of using some resources to remind the communities of the large amount of success that is produced in our organization. Our communities benefits from the work done in our organization and should be aware of it and how to protect the work we do.
Response: Great question! We have made an ongoing effort to educate the public and our legislators regarding our students successes. Our Communications Department regularly communicates with patrons and taxpayers using direct mail and email to highlight program successes. Additionally, they work closely with the media to get coverage for our schools. We also have great relationships with our legislators to ensure they receive regular and accurate updates on pertinent information. This has to be an ongoing and sustained process and every effort we make (collectively and as individual schools) can quickly be diminished by a single problem or issue. The Communications Department continually requests tips and information on your successes so they can be highlighted appropriately. Email that information here.
Question: Why does GSD not offer a maternity leave option? Many educators are devoted mothers and fathers that wish to expand their families. I understand we do have a summer break, but some things are beyond our control no matter how well we try to plan! A neighboring district offers 6 weeks paid leave and allows 6 more weeks without pay. It would be nice to know I could afford to take a short leave of absence to expand my family without eliminating the larger paycheck (or using all my sick leave), even for a short period of time.
Response: Granite School District values its employees and their families. GSD also understands that many of our employees are in the process of starting families as well as raising children which means employees may have to miss work in order to fulfill this responsibility. Because of that, GSD has implemented numerous leave options in an attempt to allow employees the opportunity to balance work responsibilities with family responsibilities. Although GSD does not offer an actually policy entitled “Maternity Leave,” there are various options that provide our employees (both mothers and fathers) time off for the birth and care of a baby. Here are some examples:
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) –
An employee can take up to 12-weeks off for the birth of a baby under Family Medical Leave (FMLA). If the employee has the sick leave, they are eligible to use up to six weeks of their sick leave from the date of birth and the remaining time would be unpaid. If the employee is the father of the new baby, he would be able to use up to 10 days of sick leave (sick family) and up to 12-weeks of time off under FMLA.
Short-Term Disability (STD) –
If the employee has enrolled in Short-Term Disability (STD), they would be eligible to apply for that benefit for the time off for the post-partum recovery. In order to access the STD benefits, the employee must use all of their accrued sick/personal/vacation first.
15-Day Leave of Absence –
If the employee does not have enough sick leave, is not enrolled in STD or does not qualify for FMLA, but wishes to take time off for the birth and care of a baby, they can take two consecutive 15-Day Leaves of Absence.
Thanks to the Benefits Office for their assistance in responding to this question.
Question: Most industrialized countries in the world require students to attend school for more than 180 day per year. With the decline of U.S. students’ test scores in reading and math, why isn’t lengthening the school year been a consideration? Throughout my 20 years of teaching, more and more has been added to the curriculum but no additional time is provided for instruction. Yes, it would cost tax payers more money but it just makes sense that if we are to truly compete in a global educational society, we need to increase the number of days students attend school so that adequate time can be spent learning the concepts that are required.
Response: You won’t hear an uproar of resistance here. In fact, we supported former state superintendent Scott Bean as he pushed hard for two or three years to get the school year extended to 240 days, then later to 220 days. Then he gave up. You are hitting the nail on the head when you identify this as a financial issue. Activating teachers an additional day costs more than $1,000,000 in Granite, we are about 11% of the state. That means a rough (and low) estimate would be more than $9,000,000 per day. Multiply that by 60 days, or 40 days, and we’re talking about real money – year after year as well (not a none-time expense). Thanks for your work with the limited resource (time) you have!
I work in the district office and see so much paper being thrown away and not being recycled. The county and city both have recycling programs and I think they would come and pick up the products. I am wondering why we don’t recycle in every department in the building. I notice some schools have recycling bins in their work rooms, but I am not sure it is district wide. What up with this?
We do recycle paper and cardboard throughout the district office and there are collection stations located throughout the GEC. Please talk to the custodial staff to identify the location closest to you (it may be the communications office). The district office does not provide receptacles to collect the paper other than at those locations. By all means, get a “paper only” receptacle and take those to the designated locations when they are full.
Beyond paper and cardboard, we would actually get charged for recycling. To this point we’ve decided not to spend our money on recycling – if it were even cost neutral we’d jump on it. We’re check for new programs frequently, if you run into one, please let us know!
Thanks to Support Services Department for their assistance in responding to this question.
Here is a question about getting an early paycheck in November:
My question relates to our paycheck for November only. Lots of us have children and we take advantage of “Black Friday” at the stores. Having our paycheck for that would make us really happy!! Is there any possibility that our checks could be deposited before we take off for Thanksgiving break? Please 🙂
This request may be due to the fact that over the past three or four years, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend fell at the end of the month which is closer to the end of the pay period. District policy states that payday is the last working day of the month. Both policy and negotiated agreements state that payday is the “last working day of the month”, which is not necessarily always “last day of the month”. For this year, payday is Wednesday, November 30 as per policy and, accordingly, payday is also on the last work day of December usually around the 22nd of December.
There are a few other reasons why we can’t pay our employees early:
1. Cost – We lose interest on $22 million for every day we advance payday (this interest rolls into the budget to pay salaries!).
2. State Statute prohibits payroll advances.
3. It would go against negotiated agreements with employee groups.
4. When we put together the master schedule for pay periods this year, we scheduled it based upon a November 30 payday. At this point, there is not enough time between the last day of the pay period and Wednesday the 23rd to be able to get all the reporting and processing completed/reviewed and ACH files submitted to banks in time for a 23rd posting.
We continue to try to improve our services – within the parameters of law, negotiated agreement, and policy. Thanks for your question!
Thanks to the payroll department for helping with this response. Please feel free to contact them if you have any additional questions at (385) 646-4312.
Why are we seeing a $50 in our benefits? The increase due to the law changes should only amount to a 4% increase in premiums at the most, but this is almost a 30% increase. I doubt health care costs have gone up that much. I also know the state is responsible for scrutinizing exhorbitant rate increases such as this one. Of course I’ve never known the district to care much for social issues such as this, probably for politically expedient reasons, such as falsely indicating that it is a result of the health care law? So the next question is, what can be done to rectify a change that most of is can’t afford?
Health insurance costs have risen 10% to 15% a year each year for several years – regardless of the changes to the law (costs for medical services and especially prescriptions go up each year, even without changes to health care laws). This past year was no exception. We have an insurance committee made up menmbers of the negotiating teams of the collective bargaining units (GEA and GESPA) as well as representatives from the middle manager, office professional and administator associations. That group looks closly at industry increases and makes recommendations to the respective negotiating teams regarding changes to cover the cost increases. If you are a member of GEA or GESPA, you remember voting on those increases as part of the negotiation ratification process this past spring.
We were lucky that this year’s increase was projected at “only” $2.9 million or about 6% for 2011-12. Even though this was a moderate increase for health insurance, Granite’s state funding has been cut significantly for each of the last 3 years. Because of the funding reductions, Granite has cut $58 million from our budget in the last three years, leaving no funding to cover increases in health insurance costs. The employee health insurance committee recommended the following changes to our health insurance plans to cover the $2.9 million increase:
As such, you are correct that the district now only covers 93% of employee and non-spouse dependent insurance membership costs (down from 95%) and only pays for 78% of spouse costs (down from 80%). Your math is close, the jump from paying for 7%, instead of 5%, feels like a 40% increase and the change from 80% to 78% feels like a 10% increase.
Once again, these were costs that had risen with no increase in legislative funding to offset the increase. We often say that the first 3% of a WPU increase are used to break even (covering cost increases). As we all keenly know, there hasn’t been any WPU increase at all for some time.
Thanks to Mitch Robison, our budget director for his assistance in responding to this question.
Thank you for your informative blog. In reading over some of the other questions that have been submitted, this may seem like a trivial question, but I’ve had children in Granite School District for five years and still haven’t seen any action being taken.
My question is: What is keeping the district from replacing the pull-down cloth hand towels still being used in elementary schools? I’ve seen over the course of several years that elementary-age students are not able to correctly use the towels, and large groups of children end up drying their hands with visibly dirty portions of the towels. With the Swine Flu scare, chicken pox outbreaks, and everyday childhood illnesses, I’m disappointed that more action hasn’t been taken to provide a more sanitary way for children to wash and dry their hands throughout the day. What can we as parents do to help our schools replace these towels with a cleaner, easier option?
Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate all that you do to ensure that our children are well educated and well taken care of during the hours they spend at school.
There are two parts to this response.
First we need to understand the financial ramifications of such a decision. Currently, there are over 2,300 cloth towel dispensers being used at various locations through our district. There are two options for replacing these dispensers. There is a standard paper towel dispenser that students usually waste vast amounts of the paper towel along with the environmental impact. The battery operated “sensor” dispensers limit waste, but have ongoing costs related to manpower and changing the batteries. There are also air dryers that require the additional expense of running additional electric outlets to our restroom facilities (particularly in our older buildings). New facilities are being designed and constructed with these outlets. We are testing out several types of hand dryers. However, they are cost prohibitive due to the significant upfront expense that hovers around $600-$800 for installation. Overall, whether we switch all of these devices to one of these alternatives, the cost to immediately replace these 2,300 dispensers would cost around $100,000 to over $1.8 million. As you can see, an immediate transition to an alternative is cost intensive.
Secondly, we must consider the actual health ramifications of these cloth dispensers. In working with the health department and in reviewing studies available on the subject, cloth hand towels are far more hygienic than both paper towels and air dryers. While the perception is contrary to these studies, the television news program 20/20 also did a segment and found that people should avoid air dryers because they are blowing bacteria in the air (in the restroom) onto your hands. Because drying removes most of the bacteria, cloth hand towels are the most safe form of drying your hands (I know what you are thinking because we all had the same perception). Additionally, they are completely sanctioned by our local department, the FDA and the federal department of health and human services. There is no evidence that bacteria can travel through the physical barrier in the dispenser from the contaminated portion to the clean portion of the towel and since the cloth is more absorbent than paper and effective than the air blowers, they are more sanitary.
You have a great point when it comes to using the machines correctly. Our schools who utilize these devices should be instructing children on how to use them properly. Additionally, we need help from our students and patrons to let us know when any of our devices are not serviceable so that local janitorial staff can remedy the problem quickly.
Not only are cloth towels superior when it comes to actual hygienic standards, they are far superior as far as cost, safety (think fires), vandalism and environmental impacts. We will continue to have problems with vandalism and other issues with all of our dispensers. After carefully studying this issue in our janitorial department (since we initially received complaints back in 2010 during the H1N1 scare), it has been decided to continue to utilize cloth dispensers until there is good rationale to change.
Thanks for your question and for all the research and efforts made by our janitorial staff. If you would like to review some of the independent studies that have been conducted on this topic, a folder with the information is available in the Communications Department.
I am a 37 year veteran teacher, retired from Jordan District and teaching in Granite for the past 5 years. I have a M.Ed and many endorsements. When I was hired by Granite I was told that, because we cannot put another retirement into the system I would be getting that money put into a 401K. This happened (and was wonderful) for 3 years. Last year I was told that the Districts were given the option to either put this money in or not. Granite opted not to do this. My question is, where does this money go? It seems to me that I work the same amount of hours (sometimes more!) than my colleagues but I am not getting the same pay. Is this fair? Thanks for this open forum and your willingness to answer our questions.
Prior to the 2010-11 school year, Granite was required by law to make retirement contributions for employees who were double dipping. These contributions were placed into the double-dipping employee’s 401K plan because, as a retired employee, they were already collecting their retirement and were no longer earning service credit in the retirement system. This was a very good deal for the retired, double-dipping employee. They were receiving retirement checks, a pay check from the district and a significant contribution to their 401K plan. This all worked very well until the economic crisis came. Not only were the state and school district budgets in trouble but the Utah Retirement System lost $6 billion on their investments in one year. The legislature started to look very closely at how to make changes to the Retirement System that would save money and get the system back into a better financial position. They made multiple changes to the system but they looked closely at the double-dippers. There was some fear that the legislature would prohibit double-dipping. They ultimately did not prohibit the practice but they made changes that now make it more difficult to become a double-dipper and they also made the 401K retirement contributions for the double-dippers optional for the district.
At the same time that these changes happened in the retirement system, Granite was faced with unprecedented budget cuts because of cuts in state funding for public education. Granite had to cut $28 million from the budget in 2009-10, $17 million in 2010-11 and $13 million in 2011-12. That’s a total of $58 million in cuts in 3 years. Granite’s Board of Education had to make many difficult decisions during the last 3 budget years in order to balance the budget. One of those difficult decisions was to stop contributing retirement funding into the 401K plans of our double-dipping employees. The 401K contributions are no longer required by law because of the changes made by the legislature.
The legislature stopped short of prohibiting double-dipping. Double dippers can still collect their retirement checks and a pay check from the district but they no longer have the additional advantage of the 401K contribution.