Supports collective bargaining rights
To the editor:
In his last post, Columbiana County Republican Chairman Dave Johnson was fond of referencing former Democratic presidents to support his argument that Ohio should move forward in eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employees.
However, I find it interesting that not even all prominent Republicans share Mr. Johnson's view. "I love collective bargaining ... I've said let's get rid of civil service and let everything be collectively bargained, as long as collective bargaining is fair, tough, adversarial and there's someone in that room representing you," so said the latest Conservative media darling, Governor Chris Christy of New Jersey, during a recent town hall. Gov. Christy understands a simple, but profound, concept: competing interests, properly represented and engaged in open, honest debate can produce fair agreements. That is the heart of collective bargaining rights, and this is the heart of the argument Democrats in Columbus are now asserting. Political rhetoric aside, can anyone reasonably believe that public unions are more powerful than the state? Gov. Christy clearly believes in New Jersey's strength at the bargaining table. Yet, Gov. Kasich apparently believes the state of Ohio is too weak to negotiate a deal that's fair to both its employees and its taxpayers and needs protecting-from itself. Perhaps Mr. Johnson should drop a note to Gov. Kasich reminding him of FDR's most famous quote: "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear... is fear itself..." Or, President Kennedy's famous arms control quote, which is applicable to the current debate, where JFK confidently declared to the world, "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate." These moral truths are no less relevant today than they were then. Democrats still believe in the power of negotiation, for both employers and employees. Democrats are not afraid of competing fiscal ideas or interests. That is the heart of democracy. Neither Democrats, nor public unions, are afraid of hard, honest fiscal negotiations and neither should Republicans. Democrats believe the ultimate outcome of this entire debate must be a balanced state budget, one that increases cost effectiveness and delivers better constituent service from state government. That is what this debate must be about in the end, not the need to destroy collective bargaining rights for public employees. The latter is the voice of fear, which has no legitimate place in this debate. Just ask Gov. Christy.
MICHAEL BURNS, Salem
Presenting information on United bond issue
To the editor:
As members of the Project Future Committee for the upcoming United Local bond issue, we would like to present some information for the voters to consider.
Before the school district even considered putting this issue on the ballot, a diversified group of community members were invited to meetings to discuss the needs of the district. This group (now known as Project Future) held numerous informational meetings and heard from various architectural firms. They also visited school districts that have recently built new facilities. After much consideration, it was decided that the district should go ahead and put the issue on the May ballot.
Here is a little background on the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC). In the late 1990s the OSFC was formed to bring equity to poor districts by helping them build schools. The OSFC is responsible for assisting school districts in building "world class" educational facilities. The funding does not come out of the state budget. It is funded by money garnered from tobacco settlements that has been set aside just for building new schools. If the money does not go to United, it will go to another school district in Ohio. We feel strongly that our children deserve this opportunity as much as children in any other district. Currently, United is number one on the list - we are being offered the highest percentage of funding from the OSFC at this time. Because United is considered a low income district, we are being offered 79 percent funding. For OSFC purposes, "low income" refers to the overall property values from which property taxes are received to support a school. Our local taxpayers share would be 21 percent. In comparison, the Malvern School District is currently contributing 41 percent to the OSFC's 59 percent. South Range recently completed its new school building and had to pay 48 percent of the total cost. United is being offered 20 percent more funding than Malvern and 31 percent more than South Range. Another thing to consider - if landowners in our district sell leasing rights to the drilling companies, our district's income level will go up. If the bond issue does not pass in May, it may go on the ballot at a later date, but it is unlikely that we will still be offered such a "good deal" as our property values will likely go up. We feel that our best chance is now! In conclusion, we ask that voters do educate themselves on this issue, the facts (be careful of rumors) and base your vote on your own feelings about the future of our community, our school and our children. What kind of school will we want our children going to over the next 50 years? And if we do not take the OSFC offer, could we ever afford to pay the entire cost of replacing our building on our own? Our community and family values will always remain the foundation of our school. If we can unite as a community for the benefit of our children and their future, however, we can provide a modern facility that will support our standard of excellence well into the 21st century. Please feel free to visit the United website at www.united.k12.oh.us and click on the Project Future logo for more information. Thank you for your kind consideration.
JODI BRICELAND, SHARI ALTHOUSE, CONNIE HEFFINGER, Project Future members
Serving as a 'voice' for all local teachers
To the editor:
I am writing as the voice of all the teachers in our local communities. There have been numerous letters and editorials concerning SB5 in newspapers recently. I have yet to read anything that actually has facts that match the reality of my situation as a teacher. Teachers' salaries and benefits are paid for with tax dollars. Teachers provide a valuable service to their communities. Teachers are required to have a bachelor's degree and a teaching license in order to teach. Many new teachers begin their teaching careers saddled with debt from student loans. Teachers' salaries need to reflect the educational requirements of their job. Teachers' salaries are much lower than private sector workers with comparable levels of education. SB5 will reduce every teachers' salary through additional retirement payments, health care premiums and elimination of salary schedules. The greatest loss however will be our voice at the bargaining table. Our retirement system was affected by John Kasich when he invested and lost funds from STRS while working for Lehman Brothers in 2008. He received a $432,000 bonus that year. This bonus is so much more than any teacher's entire retirement account. All teachers are required to pay 10 percent of their salary into their own retirement accounts. Some teachers have had a portion of their percentage paid in lieu of a pay raise, some have not. Boards of education are required to pay 14 percent of teachers' individual salaries into their retirement accounts. All teachers pay a percentage of their retirement directly out of their salary every payday. Teachers also pay at least a 7 percent portion of their health care premiums. There are individual and family deductibles in these plans. Teachers also pay for prescriptions and out of pocket expenses. Salem City School employees changed health care providers a few years ago which resulted in a $1million savings for our school system. SB5 will require teachers to pay 15 percent of their health care premium costs, resulting in a reduction in teacher take home pay. All teachers have to pay for health care once they retire. They may choose a health care plan through STRS, but there is a cost with premiums and deductibles. Teachers do get 15 paid sick days per year that can accumulate. When teachers do not use sick days it saves school districts money on substitutes. Most sick day accumulation has a cap of about 270 days. Upon retirement some teachers can be paid for up to 25 percent of their accumulated sick days. Not all teachers accumulate the maximum amount.
All teachers are required to take graduate level coursework in order to maintain their certification and highly qualified status. A three hour graduate course can cost $1,000. A master's degree requires a minimum of 36 hours of graduate level coursework which can add up to $15,000. Some school districts provide partial tuition reimbursement, some do not. Most tuition reimbursement amounts are capped each year. Teachers are well trained and educated professionals. Many teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money on classroom supplies and items their students need. We are being led to believe that the salaries and benefits of public sector workers are the cause of the current lack of revenue in state budgets. How many wealthy teachers, police officers, city employees and firemen do you know? Public sector workers are hard working people who pay their fair share of taxes and spend their money in local, community businesses. When they are forced to earn less, they will have to spend less at those same local businesses.
All teachers really want is the respect and support of the local communities they serve. We need to stand together to ensure that all workers are provided a voice in their workplace. Collective bargaining provides that voice for your child's teacher.
DEBRA FEDYNA, President, S.E.A.
Ohioans can't afford to delay clean-up efforts
To the editor:
When it comes to air pollution that causes asthma attacks, heat-related illness, and unhealthy air days, Ohioans cannot afford to delay clean-up efforts. Yet, lobbyists for coal plants and industrial facilities are working to convince leaders like our U.S. Senator, Sherrod Brown, that we need a time-out from Environmental Protection Agency limits on dangerous carbon emissions. This delay would impact more than one million Ohioans suffering from asthma, including 257,000 children, according to the American Lung Association. Big polluters would have us believe that cleaner air means fewer jobs, but the facts do not support them. EPA implementation of the Clean Air Act has driven job creation and technological innovation from scrubbers that remove pollution from smokestacks to catalytic converters for cars while keeping Ohioans healthy enough to contribute to our economy. A 2011 EPA report documents Clean Air Act economic benefits exceeding $2 trillion, compared to $65 billion in costs. Doctors, business leaders, workers, and leading health advocacy groups agree that moving forward with these common sense protections are good for the economy and public health. I urge Sen. Brown to stand with them and Ohio families by opposing polluter-driven efforts to delay limits on air pollution.
JULIAN BOGGS, Columbus
Supports United Local school improvements
To the editor:
United Local has a unique opportunity to gain funding to replace parts of the campus which are many years old and in need of replacement such as the boiler system, roof and older and outdated classrooms etc. United's share of this cost will require a 3.92 bond issue on the May 2011 ballot (a cost to the owner of a $100,000 home at $120.09 per year - $10.01 per month or a daily cost of 33 cents). United has been rated as excellent and to maintain and improve the United campus is a worthwhile cause. The state's share would be 79 percent (which will not be tax dollars but tobacco money) while local share would be 21 percent therefore the need for the bond issue. The campus would also be a community use facility which may include a medical facility library, community meeting rooms, education and wellness programs. Please consider the support of this bond issue as in the future the improvements would be 100 percent funded by residents as opposed to the 21 percent if this bond issue is approved. When someone is willing to pay 79 percent for a major improvement it is worthwhile to know that the time is now to get this kind of assistance, which in the future may not be available. I am not one who readily looks for ways to increase my obligations but in this case I feel it is worthwhile and necessary to avoid a larger obligation in the future.
Where is freedom of choice with bulb issue?
To the editor:
I am extremely angry with PUCO's recent determination about the First Energy light bulb program. They have set a very bad and unfair precedent for all consumers! In order for First Energy to get the energy usage down, customers need to use less electric and be more energy efficient. So PUCO authorized First Energy to bill all customers 30 cents per month for three years for two fluorescent bulbs. Where is freedom of choice in that? It is voluntary but we have still to pay for it whether or not we get the bulbs! And what about the households who already replaced their own bulbs to energy efficient ones? Plus, PUCO also allowed First Energy to charge an additional $1.20 per month to make up the loss of revenue that the company will experience because the consumers will be using less electric (the ultimate goal). Why should customer have to pay for the more efficient goods and then also pay the supplier the difference they would have made if we were not using less? This only benefits First Energy with no regard for the consumer! This program also sets a bad precedent: Next we are looking at gasoline prices. Federal guidelines have mandated that car manufacturers have to improve miles per gallon on every car sold in U.S. Based on PUCO's guide Americans would then have to pay the difference oil companies would "lose" by having better gas mileage on cars to make it up. It sounds dumb, right? That is just what PUCO just did with First Energy! The total light bulb fee is $54 per household without regard to fixed income or electric usage. PUCO justified this by saying that using all six bulbs for one year would save a severely over-exaggerated $49. So let me get this rightwe are paying First Energy $54 to save $49. And they are not even required to send us the light bulbs. We have to call to request them from First Energy (they have a warehouse of 3.75 million bulbs from the failed 2009 program). And if they run out we have to go to and pay 50 cents per bulb for the ones we are already being billed for at $1.50 per month for three years! What planet is PUCO and First Energy on? And don't they realize this is America and not communist China? We should not have to pay for First Energy's bad business decisions (like ordering 3.75 million light bulbs before they had an approved plan)! They should eat the cost, not us! We wholeheartedly rejected this light bulb program in 2009, why on earth would PUCO approve it now without any consideration for the consumer? These people are not even elected officials so why should they get to make these types of bad decisions that are only in the best interest of First Energy and totally screws the consumer! I have also sent a complaint to PUCO; everyone who pays an electric bill should too. Boo to PUCO! Boo to First Energy! Revoke the program!
SHANNON KERR, Alliance
ObamaCare is coming with some extra costs
To the editor:
How about show of hands those who were all in favor of the Democrats passing ObamaCare? Be honest now! Well, here's what you probably didn't know about it.
Starting in 2014, everyone who purchases insurance directly from a health insurance plan in the individual and employer markets (such as Blue Cross Blue Shield as just one example), will be required to pay a new "sales tax" on their premiums. This new tax starts at $8 billion per year in 2014 and rises to $14.3 billion by 2018. After that it increases each year based on the amount of your premium. This works out initially to approximately 3 percent per year tax on the average family premium. So you're saying, "I get my insurance from my employer, so it doesn't affect me." Wrong. This new tax applies to businesses that purchase their insurance. Do you think that the business is going to eat that cost or pass it along to its employees? Anyone who enrolls in a Medicare Advantage plan will pay the tax. Anyone who buys their own insurance will pay the tax. So the Obama administration, when trying to sell ObamaCare to the public last year, claimed that by introducing their universal health care they would be making health care more affordable it seems it's doing just the opposite, by increasing costs to families, small businesses and seniors.
Is anyone surprised by that?
RICHARD DRUMMOND, Salem
Does compassion extend after childbirth?
To the editor:
I'm responding to your Newbold, Wilson for anti-abortion bill, on the front page of the March 26 paper. There's a quote from Mr. Newbold stating "I'm pro-life and I believe every life is sacred and that life begins at conception," Newbold said, adding this is a position he came to embrace as he grew stronger in his faith. My question to Mr. Newbold is this: is there any chance your compassion can extend to the same child once it passes through the birth canal? The mother won't be able to afford health insurance, most likely. Can you please support a single payer system that would include the impoverished who will be having the mandatory babies?
Thanks for your consideration.
BARBARA ORTEGA, East Liverpool