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November 10, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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November 10, 2010
 

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Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 9B COMMUNITY PERSPECT,IVE Better future for PUSD with early retirement incentives WHERE I STAND ROBERT A. GIMBEL PUSD TEAC HER As I read Feather Publish- ing's article about the reserve funds built by Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) and the Letter to the Editor by Va- lerie Nellor, I began reflecting (as a teacher who has been part of the negotiating team for a number of years) on some areas of interest that may not be readily apparent to the general public. Please note it all has been done during some of the very worst economic times our state and country have ever faced. Under the strategic plan, the goal for building PUSD's reserve to 45percent of the operating budget, the district has nearly accomplished this amazing feat (44.3 percent) two years ahead of schedule, while still negotiating some positive benefits for teachers. Last school year, the dis- trict negotiated a two-year contract with teachers on salary (1 percent salary in- crease) and health benefits (an extra $1,000 to offset ris- ing premium costs). That has allowed teachers to start catching up with the loss of "take-home pay" due mainly to the rising costs of health insurance they have experienced over a number of years. In, school year 2008 - 09, the district also negotiated a two- year retirement plan that gave teachers a "golden handshake" worth about $35,000 per retiring teacher. Because the district was concerned about the finan- " cial benefits, they asked teachers to drop the section in the contract regarding "re- tirement benefits" after the 2009 - 10 school year. Teach- ers agreed to the conditions and the district has retired 30 - 40 teachers in the past two school years: Now taking a line from Ms. Nellor's Letter to the Editor: "How many people do you know that would gladly retire (and free up jobs for the 9.5 percent of younger unem- ployed workers), if they could figure out how to pay for health insurance between 55 and 65?" Obviously, the district re- tirement incentive made the above situation that Ms. Nel- lor described a reality in PUSD. More than 50 percent of the teachers made up the 55 - 65 age bracket in 2008. But what else did the re- tirement incentive accom- plish? Retiring teachers earned more than $60,000 per year and an entry-level teacher earns less than $40,00Oper year. That means the district may be saving be- tween $20,000 and $30,000 per teacher per year for a num- ber of years after teachers re- tired under the retirement in- centive provided for school years 2008 - 09 and 2009 - 10. The money spent on the in- centive is recouped in two or fewer years. This was a great money-saving concept. Business Director Yvonne Bales said in the article (about the reserve) that a number of new sections have been added to schools across the district. Hiring younger teachers (at less pay) has put the dis- trict in a situation where it ' may not be spending the state-required amount of money on the classroom. As the district must spend 55 percent of the budget on classrooms or keep class- room numbers under certain levels (which varies by grade level), it chose to add teach- ers and provide more options for students -- a nice bonus for students and smaller classrooms are definitely a plus for teachers as well. So, what is in the future? Teachers no longer have a section in their contract to negotiate early retirement in- centives as they have hadin the past, yet about one-third of the teachers are still in that 55- to 65-year-old age bracket Ms. Nellor spoke of in her letter. Those teachers are at the top end of the salary scale, which means there is a dis- proportionate number of peo- ple in that age bracket com- pared to those in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Health insurance costs for retiring teachers (not eligible for Medicare) would be over $15,000 per year. Most teach- ers cannot afford to retire be- cause of these costs and will have to continue working well into their mid-60s. Could PUSD initiate a re- tirement plan that would save the district money; bet- ter balance the age brackets and possibly add even more teachers and aides (especially for split classes in elemen- tary schools) for our stu- dents? If PUSD offered a plan that paid the premium costs (or a significant portion of it) for retirees up to five years, the district should still save more than $5,000 in each of those years. A plan like that (especially one that spreads the incen- tive over a period of time) would save money for re- tirees and the district, as well: as help balance the dispro- portionate age brackets. It also would be an econom-: ic stimulus to our county : since for each family "shop- i ping at home," there would now be two, the retiree's and ii the new teacher's! Yet why stop with teach- ers? The district could apply the same concepts to other employees, as well as teach- ers. I believe there is more money to be saved and bene- fits to be gained by allowing people to retire between 55 and 65, just as Ms. Nellor wrote in her letter. In contrast to other dis- tricts across the state that ar having severe layoffs of teachers, other employees and programs being cut, I would like to see PUSD be an: extremely solvent district in ' California that builds a bet- ter place for students. I believe that continuing to offer early retirement incen- " tives is an integral part of thd overall plan to build a better future for PUSD. Strengthening, family ties during the holidays and beyond WHERE I STAND 5 Lassen County encourages ............................................................................................................ parents as well as grandpar- LAURA ROBERTS EXECUTIVE DRIECTOR, FIRST 5 LASSEN COUNTY We all have such busy schedules that it can be a challenge to find time to spend together as a family. But quality time is impor- tant because when parents learn and play with their children every day, it boosts a child's self-esteem and helps kids develop positive relationships. Even 10 to 30 minutes of one-on-one time per day is a good start, as long as it's part of a regular routine. YoUng children will benefit from the love and'at- tention they receive during these precious moments. This holiday season, First ents and caregivers to give the gift of quality time. By planning educational and nurturing activities every- one can enjoy together, fami- lies can set up healthy rou- tines that last through the holidays and well into the new year. Start a tradition Plan a family meal at least once a week -- even more often if you can. Eating together provides a wonder- ful opportunity to talk with your children about their day and show them that they are your top priority. Get kids involved by giving them age-appropriate tasks like setting the table, tossing the salad and cleaning up. Open a book daily Help your child's imagina- tion soar by reading favorite stories together. Point out fun things you see in picture books and let your toddler turn the pages. Host a weekly family fun night On cold or rainy days, turn off the TV and comput- er, and get creative. Set up a row of chairs and role-play as a bus driver or train con- ductor; enjoy a game of mu- sical chairs; or use everyday items like cardboard boxes, glue and cotton balls to cre- ate pieces of art. ' Take a field trip Visit the zoo, local muse- ums and libraries to learn about animals, interesting historical facts and other ed- ucational topics. Make sure to call ahead and find out if there's a kids' day, and ask if free or discounted tickets ale available. Go outside for physical activity Go for a walk, play catch, ride bikes around the neigh- borhood or visit the park. it's a chance to spend time together as well as squeeze in a healthy dose of active play! Make every moment count Above all, use every mo- ment together to learn from and listen to your child, even when taking care of every day errands. Young children love to help -- take your kids grocery shopping and let them pick out fruits and vegetables while you ask about favorite foods. When driving, point to col- ors and shapes, and ask your child to count trees or read simple signs. Remember, spending qual- ity time with your children this holiday season is a priceless gift -- your time and attention cost nothing and mean everything. For more information on pro- moting your child's healthy development, contact First 5 Lassen at 257-9600 or visit Lassenfirst5.com and first5california.com/parents. First 5 Lassen County research shows that a child's brain develops most dramatically in the first five years, and what parents and care- givers do during these years to support their child's growth will have a meaningful impact through- out life. Based on this re- search, California voters passed Proposition 10 in 1998, adding a 50 cents- per-pack tax on cigarettes to support programs for expectant parents and children ages 0 to 5. First 5 Lassen County distributes approximately $300,000 a year in proposition 10 rev- enues to programs and services that meet local needs. LETTERS to the EDITOR Guidelines for Letters All letters must contain an address and a phone number. We publish only one letter per week, per person and only one letter per person, per month regarding the same subject. We do not publish third-party, anonymous, or open letters. Letters must be limited to a maximum of 300 words. The ed- itor will cut any letter in excess of 300 words.The deadline is Friday at 3 p.m. (Deadlines may charige due to holidays.) Letters may be taken to any of Feather Publishing's offices, sent via fax to 283-3952, or e-mailed at mail@plumasnews.com Helpful I appreciated the Almanor Tea Party's Voter Education evening Oct. 26, which gave a helpful presentation of the proposition measures on the statewide ballot. I also learned about a great re- source for rating the Supreme Court, appellate and superior court judges up for voter approval. As a rule, little is written or reported about what kind of record the appointed judges have, and yet, we the voters, knowing little or nothing about their judicial record, are expected to vote whether to retain them. The website address is judgevoterguide.com. It was a very informative evening and the presenters kept the meeting moving so we finished within the hour planned for the event. I also thank the Coffee Sta- tion for generously provid- ing coffee for the event, along with volunteers who provided cookies. It gave us all an opportunity to get ac- quainted afterwards and talk about future plans. If we want to restore good, representative, limited gov- ernment, we must educate ourselves about our history, heritage and Constitution in order to hold our elected rep- resentatives in check. This takes time and effort, but our freedom is well worth it. We can't go to sleep between elections. We've learned that the hard way. "Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." Barbara MacArthur Lake Almanor Disappointed We were sorely disap- pointed in Ms. Jorgensen's article; along with any edi- tor input, about the Schomac Group in the Portola Re- porter. The entire article, es- pecially the headline, had an ugly tone that has no place in a community newspaper. Plumas County has been hit very hard by the current recession and has a long haul ahead before it can come back to a place where young people can find work and raise their families. The tone of that article will do 'far more harm than good as a PR tool for the county. We're not suggesting that probleNms should be glossed over and sugarcoated in the paper, but reporting can be done in a professional man- ner without detrimental bias. East county has al- ready figured out that all of its little towns must work to- gether for economic health. We hope that the rest of the county will soon figure out that all sections of the coun- ty must work together for the economic health of the entire county. Since Schomac Group bought the Nakoma bank- ruptcy assets they have worked hard and fast to make many necessary im- provements in their proper- ties, and doing a quality job in the process. The economic health of the entire county in the future is dependent on both adding new assets as well as maintaining existing assets to be taxed. Hal and Gall McGrath Clio Exceptional I recently took a hike in the woods and clumsily sus- tained a pretty mean gouge in my shin from a sharp tree branch. I called the North Fork Clinic to make an ap- pointment with my regular doctor, to check things out. Unfortunately he was un- available on short notice, which was understandable. I was, however, referred to one of the new physicians, Dr. Barnes, who was recent- ly hired by the Plumas Dis- trict Hospital. I found Dr. Barnes to be friendly, knowledgeable and very capable. Due in no small part to Dr. Barnes' ex- ceptional care, my "wound- ed" leg is well on its way to a full recovery. Also, in recent weeks I learned that the Plumas Dis- trict Hospital appointed its chief of nursing, Linda Jamison, to interim chief ex- ecutive officer. Based on my recent expe- rience with Dr. Barnes and my familiarity with Linda Jamison (mostly through a local service club) I'd have to say that the Plumas Dis- trict Hospital has made two exceptional choices as it moves forward, and is to be congratulated. Jim Boland Quincy Grateful I realize the time for singing the praises of our hospital has passed. The ma- jority has spoken and now our community will deal with the consequences of what was decided. I feel there is always a right time to give credit when it is due. I found myself at Plumas District Hospital emergency room in the early morning of Oct. 22. The team made a quick assessment and with- in minutes I was under full care. They were able to sta- bilize me and prepare me for the CareFlight to Reno. Time was of the essence and they wasted none. Everyone who worked on me at Renown in Reno had the same comments, "Your little hospital did an incredi- ble job, and they basically saved your life." It is difficult to put a sim- ple "thank you" to such a profound event in my life. Impossible to let that small band of dedicated healthcare folks know how grateful I am. I will have an extra blessing at my table this Thanksgiving and can only hope this community will join me in a silent prayer of appreciation for what we have here. Nancy Gambell Quincy Factual A reply to Margaret Dun- can's letter (Oct. 26) is in or- der. She wrote that Obama was taking away her med- ical treatments and "using the elderly like some wide- open bank." I believe her an- guish comes from news that there will be no COLA -- cost of living -- increase in Social Security this year. The Consumer Price Index is what sets the COLA each year; it is then enacted by Congress. In 2009, Obama proposed and Congress voted a $250 payment to all seniors be- cause there would be no CO- LA that year. This year Obama again proposed a $250 payment. The payment of $250 was passed by the House but was defeat- ed in the Senate by a vote of 47 to 53. Voting Yes were 46 Democrats and one Republi- can. Voting No were 40 Re- publicans (out of 41) and 12 Democrats (out of 58) and in- dependent Joe Libermen. In the Great Depression, there was 25 percent unem- ployment, army veterans had been gunned down in Washington, D.C. (1929) and more than 1,000 banks closed, taking the savings of millions of people's hard- earned dollars. Flash forward to today. Yes, there is unemployment but millions of workers had unemployment insurance. And our bank deposits are insured by the federal gov- ernment. Social Security (1935) and Medicare (1965) were both labeled socialist and were condemned by every major newspaper in the country. I might add that both of these "pro-senior" pieces of legislation benefited young families who no longer were obliged to support their ag- ing parents or see them lose their homes. Following his 2004 election victory, President Bush de- clared he would privatize So- cial Security. That would have been a time for Ms. Duncan to become alarmed. Luckily, it found no support in Congress and died a quiet death. I invite Ms. Duncan and other concerned people to at- tend the next meeting, Nov. 18, of the Plumas County Commission on Aging, in Quincy. We deal factually with legislation and pro- grams affecting seniors. Nancy Lund Chair, Plumas County Commission on Aging Greenville Girls State Did I miss something? Why is it that only Califor, nia Boys State participants were featured in the newspa- per article Oct. 27? Does the American Legion only sponsor Boys State but not Girls State? If so, I'm shocked. I was a participant in Peli can Girl's State in Louisianff in 1958. As a teenager, it wa an important formative ex perience for me and proba bly the most exciting educa:. tional opportunity of my young life. It's especially imi portant for California's young women to participate in such a vital exercise in democratic leadership at t time when there are sq many more opportunities for, women's full participation in our political institutions, i Please explain this over,.' sight of California Girls State in your newspaper. would very much like to,' help send young womer from every high school iri Plumas County to Califor! nia's Girls State in 2011 and for every year thereafter. Mary-Louise Rut Quincy ' Editor's Note: The banque that was the focus of our arti cle featured Boys State partic! ipants. Girls State is a com. pletely separate program of. the American Legion A uxil! iary, the women's counterpari to the Legion. Over the past decade, a drop in membership has led to the closure of sever! al local Auxiliary units and the virtual demise of Girls State for Plumas County.