Johnsburg Central School Superintendent Mike Markwica
While Johnsburg Central School Superintendent Mike Markwica concedes that taxpayers have a right to voice their negative opinions about public officials, he says one critic has printed some factual errors in his recent News Enterprise advertisements. The advertiser, however, is sticking behind his words.
Beginning April 14, school board candidate Anthony “Tony” Moro has been placing half-page political ads in the News Enterprise critical of the school district. Moro is a co-founder of the Johnsburg Central School Citizens Budget Committee and is no stranger to School Board meetings. And the content of his ads has been a hot topic of conversation among Markwica, board members and citizens at recent meetings.
The superintendent said he recognizes that some of Moro’s points are purely opinion but claims that some of the information from the ads below is inaccurate.
Asked if he stood behind his accusations in the Information Bulletin 1 and 2 advertisements, Moro said, “Yes I do.”
Information Bulletin 1 (April 14)
1) The School Board FAILED to reveal JCS’s huge future financial obligations, community knowledge of which would strengthen our school district in negotiating multi-annual contracts with teacher and staff unions.
Markwica: I guess there’s some opinion here, but we had two budget meetings this early winter and we put down there what we pay in retirement and health benefits. So I don’t believe we’re hiding anything.
2) The School Board FAILED to reveal just how much JCS taxpayers’ money is channeled directly to Albany in total annual union dues.
Markwica: This is my personal opinion, I can’t see this as anything but a lie. At that point, that is not taxpayers’ money; it’s in their paycheck. That’s like asking me to go and get all their grocery bills. It’s their decision what they do with that money at that point. I think that’s a manipulation of words ... Their paycheck would not decrease if they chose not to be part of the union. They would still have that amount of money in their paycheck.
3) The School Board FAILED to disclose how much JCS district pension obligations are unfairly inflated by allowing prospective retirees to pump up their last few years’ compensation before retirement. Our current multi-annual employment contracts permit this practice, by WHY did the board approve them?
Markwica: When we had that second (budget) meeting, we put it out there that next year’s retirees, the amount we have to pay for their benefits, was 600 and some-odd thousand. It was right there. And Tony came up to me and his comment to me was, ‘That’s a mighty big number,’ and I said, ‘Yeh, it is.’ He goes, ‘Well, what do we get for that?’ Well, we got a lot for it. So I don’t believe we failed to give that information.
4) The School Board FAILED to disclose that a major statewide study shows JCS among the most expensive school districts per student while also among the lowest in student academic achievement.
Markwica: I truly do not believe it’s my or the board’s job to put out (that) information. I could be putting out information all day long. Do you know how many studies there are out there? He brought it to our awareness. We’ve looked at it, I can tell you that. But we also looked at the Buffalo Review that was brought up two meetings ago that showed us very favorable.
Information Bulletin 2 (April 21)
1) The board has PERMITTED staff numbers and compensation levels to grow over the years as student enrollment steadily declined. Since staffing accounts for 75-80 percent of school costs, JCS taxpayers have been unfairly burdened by this policy.
Markwica: In five years, we’ve lost 10 and a half positions. I don’t think that’s ‘grow.’ I think that’s a lie ... Every year, we show a slide of the programs we have either taken away or the staff we’ve decreased, and over the last five years, we have decreased 10 and a half positions. Therefore, the total compensation as a whole has gone down. We have not increased staff, we have decreased staff.
2) The board has PERMITTED needless growth of physical plant by approving construction despite declining student numbers. Taxpayers had to pay for the capital costs and interest, plus increased operating expense to cover upkeep, fuel, power, cleaning, etc. required to maintain this space.
Markwica: That’s an opinion ... He mentions that obviously this causes increased costs, which I can’t argue with, but the building proposition was put up in ’04, and over 70 percent of the voters voted it in.
3) The board has PERMITTED other schools to respond more decisively to recession challenges. (He gives two examples.)
Markwica: This one’s opinion ... Last year, we had the teachers and staff, through givebacks, meaning direct salary giveback or changing their health insurance plans, we had about $300,000 that was saved off of the budget last year ... The board asked both the unions last year what they could do to help. That’s what then proceeded for that giveback and health insurance change ... And the 10 and a half positions, and that doesn’t include the programs that we’ve lost. The recession didn’t start this year ... We also lost a 5-8 grade Project Success program after school. We lost our complete summer school enrichment program, where we had six summer school teachers and a teaching assistant and a bus driver. We definitely have fewer class field trips now ... I’m not saying those are good things of how the board has responded toward the recession, but they were necessities because of the recession.