School administrators’ contract accepted by the RTM
FAIRFIELD — A new school administrators’ contract won approval Monday, despite efforts by Republicans on the Representative Town Meeting to send the one-year pact to arbitration.
The agreement provides a total wage increase of 2.49 percent, although 20 of the bargaining unit’s 41 members are at the top salary step and will get a 1.5 percent wage increase. The vote to not reject the contract passed 29 to 8.
Michael Herley, R-10, wanted the legislative body to reject the pact, noting he thought a wage increase of 2 percent would garner 100 percent support from the RTM, while Pam Iacono, R-8, was not happy with the contract’s length.
The new contract is in effect from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019. Normally, Stephen Sedor, the school board’s attorney, said contracts last at least three years. He told RTM committees the rationale for the one-year agreement was two-fold: not committing the town to funding for more than one year given the state’s financial situation, and getting the teacher and administrator contract negotiations on different schedules.
“These are clearly some difficult times our town is facing,” Herely said. “I believe it is too expensive for our town at this period of financial insecurity.”
He pointed out the town’s department heads are not receiving raises for next year.
“I think it’s difficult to rationalize 2.49 percent when good people on the town side will get zero,” Herley said.
The union is comprised of headmasters, school principals and assistant principals, athletic directors and curriculum leaders.
In addition to the state’s financial situation, Herley and other Republicans pointed to the effect that the federal GOP tax bill will have on residents’ pocketbooks when they are limited in their state and local tax deductions.
William Gerber, D-2, said that half of the bargaining unit is not getting 2.49 percent, and said the salaries the school district’s administrators are paid are well within the market rate. Gerber said he looked at contracts for the towns south of Fairfield, and Fairfield is the lowest. “We’re going to lose people if we pay them below market,” Gerber said.
If the RTM rejects the contract, Gerber said, it goes to arbitration. “The last time we did that it cost $100,000 in legal fees,” he said. “It was a fair contract last time and we went to arbitration and we lost.”
Peter Ambrose, R-1, said its not a question of whether the 41 administrators deserve a raise. “They do,” he said. but added, “We’re at a time of economic and financial insecurity.” Ambrose said neighboring towns like Stratford are looking at layoffs for its teachers.
The increased cost of the new contract is $152,577.
Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly, a member of the Board of Education who sat on the negotiating committee, said cutting the wage increase to 2 percent would mean a savings of about $30,000. But, she said, since the rejected contract would have to go to arbitration, it would already have spent those savings on arbitration. Either side could request mediation, but that does not stop the arbitration process.
“There’s no doubt we support our staff here,” Iacono said, but a one-year agreement is a “deal breaker for me. I wanted to see a multi-year deal.”
A former school board member herself, Iacono said she would like to see the step system changed, possibly shrinking the number of steps. The administrators get salary bumps at each of six steps, based on length of employment.
There are 20 administrators at the top sixth step, six at step five, six at step 4, five at step 3, and two each at steps two and one.