Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Milford school unions resist concessions

MILFORD -- Board of Education members have asked the school employee unions to agree to roll back their scheduled raises by 1 percent to avoid layoffs, but the unions likely won't agree.

Pending the unions' reaction, the board put off voting Tuesday night on budget cuts that could force layoffs of two teachers and five media aides, as well as eliminate four other positions to make up for nearly $935,000 cut from the 2009-10 education budget by the finance and aldermen boards. The education budget for new fiscal year now stands at $82.9 million.

Last month, the school board asked the six unions, which represent more than 1,100 school employees, to consider a 1 percent lower raise or a one-day unpaid furlough, but the 695-member teachers' union has stood firmly against concessions.

Board members said the arbitrated three-year Milford Education Association contract, which will expire in 2011, provides an average raise of about 4.9 percent when steps of seniority and education are combined.

In a letter to union leaders delivered Wednesday, board Chairman David Hourigan asked unions to respond to the proposed concession by June 4.

Before the board's Tuesday night meeting, MEA President Joan Mancini said there will be no concessions, even with layoffs looming.

"Our position is still that €¦ we went into binding arbitration and that contract needs to be respected," Mancini said.

Jim Whitaker, head of the 74-member custodians'

union, said his membership made concessions of about $160,000 in 2004-05 and probably won't make more this year. The average school custodian is paid about $40,000 and is scheduled for a 3 percent raise under the contract next year, he said.

Whitaker said he's suggested numerous cost-saving measures in building, maintenance and grounds operations, but nobody has listened. There's plenty of money available without employee concessions, it just needs to be spent wisely, he said.

"We do see where money is wasted every single day and we try to point it out, but the problem is you've got too many people with their own personal agendas that cost money," he said. "It's always the same story: 'The kids are going to suffer.' The problem is, nobody's watching how the money's being spent."

For example, Whitaker said, the school district bought a truck and plow about eight months ago for $35,000 and it sat in a parking lot so long the brakes froze. "Why should I give you more money out of my pocket so you can buy a truck to sit in the parking lot?" he wondered.

All of the city's employee unions -- except for police officers and police dispatchers -- have agreed to forgo raises next year in exchange for no layoffs.

"If the unions don't grant us concessions, then we will have to make cuts," Hourigan said. "It could mean that the proposed layoffs stand and maybe more."

Originally Printed at the CT Post online

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