The True Teacher Tax

October 16, 2017

I’ve received a number of letters regarding a so-called teacher tax and I’d like to set the record straight. The teacher’s union is blatantly misinforming and misleading its members and, now, even parents.

Because of this, some of my friends who are teachers and administrators feel that I let them down. This is not true.

The State of Connecticut legally cannot withhold pension contributions and use it for anything other than a contribution to the Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS). At the same time, the state cannot put the increased employee pension contributions into the pension plan until the Teacher’s Retirement Board performs a new valuation of the fund. Once that happens, the contributions that went into the General Fun, as well as any future contributions, will be paid to the TRS.

As for the contributions, the budget calls for a 1 % increase in pension contributions each year of the two-year budget. This means that in fiscal year 2018, teachers will see an additional 1 % of their pay go into their pension. In 2019, an additional 1 % will go to the pension. This will bring teachers’ total contributions to 8% and will help make the fund more solvent.

An 8% contribution is still below the national average and much lower than the New York State teacher contribution, which is set by an actuary annually. New York teachers have contributed an average of 12% in the 2010s and much higher over the last three years:

  • 2014-2015 17.53%;
  • 2015-2016 13.26%;
  • 2016-2017 11.72%

I would also like to point out that the budget approved in a bipartisan manner is the only budget that continues the state’s promise to exempt a portion of teachers’ retirement pay from the state income tax. In fact, our budget increases the exemption from 25 % to 50 % of a retired teacher’s pension income. No other budget proposal did this.

In addition to decreasing the income tax retired teachers pay, this budget does not include what I call the real teacher tax.  Both the Democrats’ and the Governor’s budget proposals make local communities pay into the TRS. Municipal leaders have already gone on record saying this will force property tax increases.

I believe forcing municipalities to pay the teacher pension is patently unfair. The TRS was negotiated between the teachers’ union and the State of Connecticut. The towns had no say in the negotiations, so they should not be forced to pay the bill.

Contrast the approved budget with proposals that did not win legislative approval. While the approved budget fully funds education cost sharing (ECS) grant to communities, each failed proposal included a decrease in ECS to most communities. Collectively, less money for ECS and new payments to the TRS would not only force municipalities to raise taxes, they likely would lead to staff layoffs.

Which budget proposals are the ones that really hurt teachers, children, and communities?

I’m not sure why union leadership, which is supposed to have teachers’ best interests at heart, would propagate such misinformation. Shame on them.

I hope this has cleared up any insinuations about the approved bipartisan budget including a bogus teacher tax. I truly believe the budget we passed is in the best interest of all Connecticut residents, including teachers.