FAQ

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Keep Clarence Schools Great thanks you – Clarence taxpayers – for your steadfast support of our schools and kids.

How much is the Clarence School budget?

What’s in the Budget?

Per-pupil spending in New York is highest in the Nation. How does Clarence compare?

Clarence has a hard time getting substitute teachers because the pay for subs is so low. Is that true?

Is there really such a thing as tenure anymore? Just how are teachers evaluated these days anyway?

Do teachers contribute anything towards their healthcare?

Clarence rose in teacher pay rankings from 13th to 9th? Why?

My Assessment went up in 2015. Why did the School Tax Rate Go Up, Too?

 

How much is the Clarence School Budget?

The approved budget for 2015-16 is $75,392,337

What’s in the Budget?

Salary and benefits take up 75% of the budget. Every other line item in the budget is very tight. Approximately 4% of the budget is undesignated fund balance. You can see a line-item budget here.

Per-pupil spending in New York is highest in the Nation. How does Clarence compare?

The New York State average for per-pupil spending is $19,818, and the national average is $10,700. Clarence has just under 5,000 students.
The most recent fiscal accountability summary from NYS lists the following figures:
Clarence expenditures per pupil for general education:  $8,221
Clarence expenditures per pupil for special education:  $16,127
Similar Schools expenditures per pupil for general education:  $13,415
Similar Schools expenditures per pupil for special education:  $37,752
NYS expenditures per pupil for general education:  $11,260
NYS expenditures per pupil for special education: $29,922
Business First ranks Clarence  as the most cost effective school district in WNY and the second most cost effective district in all of upstate NY.  Business First listed spending per pupil as $14,258 – lowest in WNY and 5th lowest in NYS.

Clarence has a hard time getting substitute teachers because the pay for subs is so low. Is that true?

It is true that there is a shortage of substitute teachers. The shortage is regional and not just limited to Clarence. The Board of Education at its August meeting raised the rate of pay for substitute teachers in order to remain competitive with other districts in the region. The pool of substitutes regionally needs to increase and Clarence will continue actively recruiting substitute teachers.

Is there really such a thing as tenure anymore? Just how are teachers evaluated these days anyway?

Currently, there are three big elements to the teacher evaluation process: observations by administrators, a review of a portfolio of artifacts aligned to the NYS teaching standards, and student test scores. The new APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) will be based on student test scores and observations.

Teacher tenure is not a guarantee of a job for life; that’s a fallacy. Tenure is merely a guarantee that due process will be followed. It’s also not protection for “bad” teachers.

Unlike other careers, teaching careers aren’t portable. You can’t simply leave and get hired somewhere else for more money or better benefits. When one leaves a teaching job and gets hired somewhere else, not only does the tenure process start over, but so does the pay scale. Top step teachers who leave to go elsewhere might only be granted 1, possibly 2 steps on a 15 or 20 step contract. It’s virtually starting over – that’s why few, if any, teachers leave.

Only a teacher in his or her first few years who is likely to be excessed and is moving to a growing district or moves due to a spouse’s relocation would take the risk and start over.

85% of Clarence teachers are rated by New York State as “highly effective”. That’s the equivalent of a major corporation boasting that 85% of its key employees exceed the expectations of their employment. The remaining 15% meet expectations.

Do teachers contribute anything towards their healthcare?

Clarence has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by switching to a self-insurance program whereby the school district pays claims and collects premiums. It is basically money in, money out, minus a fee for the third party administrator (Independent Health). It is the most cost effective way to manage health care. Clarence premiums are lower than experience-rated plans for similarly situated businesses, or for consortia plans like the NY 144 or the BOCES trust.

Teachers contribute 10%, administrators 5%, except for Superintendent Hicks, who contributes 15%. If the teachers went up to 15% it would save about $250,000, but remember their personal cost does already go up every year as the cost of health care rises.

Every additional 1% employee contribution on the premium would save approximately $50,000 for the district overall.

Because of a quirk of New York law – the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law – unions do not have to make any concessions on health care. The benefit keeps rolling over, even without a contract settlement, unless the unions agree to reduce it – which they did in the last round of negotiations.

The healthcare contribution is somewhat of a red herring. Even if teachers contributed 30%, it would save the district about $1 million per year – a drop in a $75 million bucket. The benefit is that we attract and retain excellent teachers with advanced degrees.

Clarence rose in teacher pay rankings from 13th to 9th? Why?

It’s quite likely that the higher average teacher salary is partly due to the successful push back against the 9.8% tax levy increase in 2013.

When that budget failed, the district was forced to lay off teachers, and teachers with less seniority – and lower pay – were let go. The average tenure of the remaining teachers was of course higher and because they get salary increases due to seniority the average salary of the teacher went up.

It’s also likely that a higher percentage of the remaining teachers have completed education requirements which bumped up their salaries. The argument would be that teachers become better with experience. For school districts who reported to BOCES, the median salary in Clarence is 13th out of 86 school districts regionally.

My Assessment went up in 2015. Why did the School Tax Rate Go Up, Too?

It didn’t.

The school tax rate for 2014 – 2015 was $14.80. The School District’s Budget increased by 3.86%, and the tax levy was raised by 3.84%. During the 2015 – 2016 budget process, it was estimated that the rate this year would rise to $15.37.

Instead, because of the town-wide reassessment, the school tax rate dropped to $14.34.

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