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School Districts Seek Mandate Relief From State

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – With mandates being handed down by the state, oftentimes unfunded, the Hastings Board of Education submitted mandate suggestions to the state Mandate Relief Council that it believes could benefit the various districts. 

“Each school district had to make some recommendations in terms of what mandates they’d be supportive of and these are what our board voted to send out,” said Hastings schools Superintendent Timothy Connors.

The three mandates suggested by the Hastings school board included an amendment so that teachers in tiers three and four of the state pension system once again make contributions to their retirement funds throughout their careers.  The board also supported an amendment to the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law and to allow the school districts to establish a teachers retirement system reserve fund.

The first mandate would restore the 3 percent pension contribution requirement for tier three and four members of the state pension system so that contribution would again be required in all years of service as a teacher rather than the burden falling entirely on taxpayers. 

“For even a small district, this change would result in a significant cost savings,” the Hastings board of education said in a message.  “Our district has a very experienced staff and roughly three-quarters of our teachers no longer contribute to the pension system.”

The board said a 3 percent contribution from these employees would be about $446,000 in the 2011-2012 school year, which would be 1.3 percent of the tax levy. 

The amendment to the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law would provide a freeze on the automatic step and lane increases teachers receive even after a contract expires, which would give unions more incentive to negotiate. 

“To live within the 2 percent property tax cap the district needs greater flexibility to reduce the impact of automatic pay increases and we need to restructure the most costly aspects of our collective bargaining agreements,” the board said.

Allowing school districts to establish a teachers retirement system reserve fund is also something the board supported.

“We seek an amendment that allows us to set aside money in a reserve fund,” the board said.  “It will cost nothing to allow and will provide some help in our efforts to maintain programs that benefit the students despite the volatility in this pension obligation.”

Connors made sure to reiterate that these mandates are not in the Hastings budget, they are just ideas the board discussed as ways to lesson costs.  Connors also said his expectations are realistic for such mandates.

“We don’t think there’s a lot that’s going to happen with them,” he said.  “It’s like a lot of things on mandates, people work very hard in giving their opinions and they really fall on deaf ears.”

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