My Position on the Joint Powers Agreement

The intransigency of the Beverly Hills teachers’ union, the BHEA, in defending an unsustainable salary formula which links teacher salaries to property values is disheartening on any number of levels. Perhaps most concerning is that the BHEA’s position is intellectually dishonest and intellectual dishonesty is not a useful quality in individuals who are supposed to be teaching our kids.

The BHEA points its fingers in any number of directions – all towards the School Board – in an attempt to explain the District’s fiscal challenges. But that deflects attention away from the ridiculous salary formula that links teacher salaries to Beverly Hills property values.

Importantly, rising pension costs are correctly identified by a BHEA surrogate as one of the main culprits in the District’s financial mess. As with municipalities, rising pension costs represent a real fiscal threat to the ability of public agencies to do what they are supposed to be doing. But those pension deficits are driven by teacher salaries which, in turn, are linked to Beverly Hills property values.

Beyond much-needed pension reform, it is imperative for the School Board to rescind that irresponsible and ridiculous salary formula that takes decision-making power away from our elected school board.

As for pension reform, the BHEA should offer to split the cost of the District’s increased pension costs (as I have advocated for city employees without, however, gaining the support of the Council majority). If those pension costs have more than doubled, as BHEA’s surrogate says, then perhaps the defined-benefit pension should transition to a defined-contribution, 401k style pension like most people in the private sector.

My thoughts on the subject are nothing new. In a Nov. 27, 2015 letter-to-the-editor published in a local paper, I dispelled the misinformation which the BHEA has been disseminating through surrogates about City employee salaries:

Letter to the Courier November 2015

My position on a renewal of the Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) is pretty simple. Enough is enough. As a financial trustee of the City, I simply can’t support enabling a salary formula linking District employee salaries to Beverly Hills property values. That would encourage our own city employees to believe that’s acceptable when their own contracts are up for renegotiation.

And I am not prepared to spend taxpayer dollars to fuel fiscally irresponsible district expenditures that would ultimately damage our schools.

City Council is not telling the School Board how or what to negotiate. Now, you can call it “hijacking” or “hostage taking” or whatever else, but I call it fiscal common sense. I won’t vote for a JPA which allows the most boneheaded fiscal decision in the history of our District to continue unabated and which could create issues in our own complicated labor negotiations.

The City is under absolutely no obligation to give the school district millions of dollars each year nor to lease the school’s facilities, any more than the City would be obligated to lease a venue for a Yom Haatzmaut celebration from a supporter of BDS. The “value” we get in return from the lease agreement just isn’t worth it to me and I’m convinced we could make alternate arrangements – in addition to using the $10 million we would save to benefit our entire Community, including our kids.

We’ll leave it for the BHEA and the School District to sort out their own labor negotiations, as well as to deal with their own financial situation, but I think it is only fair of the City Council to give clarity about what our expectations are in regards to the JPA.