Teachers To Vote on New Contract

What’s the largest portion of the Town’s Budget? What fiscal item do some town officials say they have no control over year after year? And what budget item will most significantly affect your tax rate in the next three years?

If you said the teacher’s union contract, you’re correct.

Little information is known at press time, but a teacher’s union contract has been under negotiations since late summer. Word has reached us that a vote is being held today by teachers on whether or not to approve a three year contract.

Past year’s contracts included 3.5% annual increase for teachers’ salaries. Medical contributions by teachers had also been increased in past years. Tactics often used by teachers’ unions are to compare their salary to the state average salary and show that their union is below that average. As they gain increases in their contract, the state average thus rises. Then the next union in another town with negotiations can argue that they are below the average, because the average constantly shifts upward.

School districts in contrast often point to the ability of their taxpayers to pay any increase. The current economic climate can be further used to show that an increase would not be in a town’s best interest. Waterbuy recently did that and rejected subsequent requests for raises, although the Board of Education there did entertain the motion after the contract was verified.

We don’t know much about the current proposed contract, but if negotiations result in similar pay increases of the past, Wolcott’s 200 or so teachers’ salaries might be compounded in annual raises. This could result in millions of dollars of added expenses to Wolcott taxpayers’ over the life of the contract. We hope that perhaps other non-salary incentives could be offered instead, if needed. Teachers consistently are saddled with costs for supplies and their classrooms. Why don’t schools reumburse them for these or supply a budget for such expenses?

Offers like this that might sweeten a deal could go a much longer way than added salary. But again, we don’t know the details at this point and caution against anyone making assumptions.

If a contract is approved by teachers, we expect it would then need to be ratified by the Board of Education. Residents should contact BOE members to give them their input on the matter. Earlier this year the Town Council rejected a school administrators’ contract which then went to arbitration. The administrators won the arbitration.


One Comment to “Teachers To Vote on New Contract”

  1. I too do not know the details of the proposed contract. It is true that teachers’ salaries make up the biggest portion of the town’s budget because they are the largest workforce. And yes, veteran teachers who have been teaching for many years are paid a decent salary. It will take the younger teachers many years (more than 11) to get to those better salaries. Think about it…they have college degrees (which many of them have taken out large loans to obtain) and must get a masters degree at their own expense (a huge investment) to retain their certification. Economic times are tough, but teachers’ salaries are the easy target because it’s the only place where people have some input. We can bemoan the rise in gas prices and heating oil, and rail against federal spending (like bailout money), but we have no control over those costs. $60,000 was returned to the town from the education budget, mainly due to the fact that teachers agreed to a furlough day long before several other towns’ teachers did. Negotiations are a give and take, and I’m sure if there is a raise involved, there were other monetary concessions, such as teachers having to pay more of their medical benefits. Taxes have remained pretty steady these last few years. I don’t see a big increase in the tax rate if teachers get a small raise.

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