Taxpayer advocate Ed Tyrrell has asked the selectmen to reject the recently agreed to teachers contract, which gives raises of about 3% a year, totaling 8.8% over its three year length.
“While the contract may have some savings in the benefit area, those savings are minuscule when compared to an 8.8% raise,” Mr. Tyrrell said in the public comment portion of the Board of Selectmen’s meeting Wednesday night, Nov. 28. “Ridgefield cannot afford such a contract.”
The schools’ current teacher salary cost of about $39 million a year, and the raises — 2.9%, 2.84% and 2.97%, including step increases — would add about $1 million a year each of the three years.
The new three-year contract’s terms have been approved by both the Board of Education and the teachers union, the National Education Association-Ridgefield (NEA-R) but it hasn’t been filed with the town clerk yet. Attorneys still have to incorporate the all agreed-upon terms into the contract document, and then it has to be filed with the town clerk’s office. It becomes binding 30 days after that, unless the town takes action to stop it.
Mr. Tyrrell pointed Wednesday night to a little-used state statute that allows the selectmen to send the agreement to arbitration. There are also provisions for citizens to petition for a town meeting to consider the contract.
“You, the Board of Selectmen, are authorized to reject this contract,” Mr. Tyrrell told the board. “Connecticut General Statute 10-153d(b) requires the Board of Education to file the fully authorized contract with the town clerk who will then make a public notice of its filing. The Board of Selectmen then has 30 days to reject the contract and send it to binding arbitration.”
School board members have touted the contract as reducing health insurance costs by $600,000 next year, while securing even more substantial long term savings for the town in the areas of health insurance and retirement benefits.
But Mr. Tyrrell, who last year led an effort to have $4.3 million CL&P refund returned directly to the taxpayers, was troubled by the raises.
“There is no better example of a wasteful increase than this proposed contract which gets the taxpayers and the school children nothing for the 8.8%.” he told the board. “I request that at your first meeting after the contract is filed with the town clerk you have the contract on your agenda and you reject it as unaffordable for the people of Ridgefield.”