Teacher contract: Worth keeping?

Pact is finally filed with town clerk's office.

The finalized contract giving Ridgefield teachers 3% raises for three years running was officially filed in the Town Clerk’s office late Wednesday afternoon, triggering a 30-day review period during which the contract may be challenged by the town.

Taxpayer advocate Ed Tyrrell has been lobbying the Board of Selectmen to call a town meeting to reconsider the contract, negotiated late last year between the Board of Education and the teachers union, The National Education Association-Ridgefield (NEA-R).

In a statement to the Board of Selectmen last week, Mr. Tyrrell explained the process as he understands it: “Once they file it with the Town Clerk, state statute gives the Board of Selectmen 30 days during which you can reject the contract forcing it to go to binding arbitration. Also, during those 30 days, the citizens of Ridgefield have the right to petition for a town meeting or referendum where they can vote to reject the contract…”

He told the selectmen: “Either before you at a meeting similar to this, or in front of a town meeting, the BoE (Board of Education) should have to defend their proposed contract. That is the purpose of the state statute.

“If it is as great as they say it is, then it will not be rejected.  If it doesn’t measure up, it will be rejected and go to binding arbitration where municipalities are faring better than ever,” he said.

“Wilton went to arbitration last year and Newtown did it this year; two towns very similar to us.  If we only did as good as Newtown recently did, we would be saving $853,000 per year at the end of this contract.  That is far more than the cost of the arbitration, but more importantly sends a message that we will not roll over during future negotiations.”

The contract terms agreed to by the union and Board of Education gave teachers raises of just under 3% a year for three years running — 2.9%, 2.84% and 2.97% on an annual salary account of about $39 million.

School board members say they got the union to agree to a variety of changes to teachers’ benefits, including a phase-out of previously free health benefits for retired teachers, who will start having to cost share with the board under the new contract.

School board Chairman Austin Drukker said actuaries were calculating the savings to the town over time achieved by renegotiation of what labor negotiators describe as “other post employment benefits.” School board negotiating committee member John Palermo said in a column in The Press in December that these costs could mount to a $72 million liability for the town over time, if  they weren’t renegotiated.

“That’s where the savings come in, is the long term. This is a long term benefit for the town as a whole,” Mr. Drukker said. “We had to give up a little in the beginning to get something for the town in the end.”

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  • ABordeux

    I turn to the Brd. of Selectmen to at least call in the Brd. of Education for a discussion on the teacher contract. Specifically, I think people would like to know why Ridgefield is paying more than all other towns in the list below.

    This list represents all the recently negotiated three year Connecticut teacher salary increases I could find on the internet:

    Ridgefield 8.97%
    Seymour 8.87%
    Westport 8.65%
    New Canaan 8.63%
    Stamford 8.62%
    Bethel 8.49%
    Plainville 8.4%
    New Manchester 8.36%
    Groton 7.5%
    New Milford 6.95%
    Weston 6.85%
    Cheshire 6.7%
    Darien 6.63%
    Redding 6.6%
    Trumbull 6.2%
    Wilton 6.1%
    Tolland 5.98%
    Monroe 5.85%
    Waterford 5.75%
    Branford 5.73%.
    Hamden 5.7%
    North Brandford 5.3%
    Farmington 4.5%

    I first showed this list a few months ago and hoped the Brd. Of Education would take part in a dialogue. I received no response. Since then, I have found a few more towns have signed teacher contracts. I’ve added them to the list. They are also lower than Ridgefield.

    For completeness, I’d like to point out a few things about this list. Every town on the list has negotiated health savings, so I don’t think we can easily say Ridgefield’s salary increase is highest because we also negotiated health savings. Some very nearby towns like Wilton, Weston, and Darien have even taken the same action as Ridgefield and required teachers to switch to an HSA.

    I’d also like to point out that this list represents to the best of my abilities, an apples to apples comparison of the towns. There are more towns that recently negotiated teacher contracts, but they didn’t give enough details for me to calculate an overall budget impact in terms of a total percentage increase. So even though I feel they would have come in lower than Ridgefield, I didn’t include them in the list out of fairness.

    Also, I see mention that Ridgefield’s overall increase is 8.71%. I think this is incorrect. You can’t add the yearly increases of 2.9%, 2.84% and 2.97% to get 8.71%. It doesn’t work that way. If you have an increase of 10% in the first year and 10% in the second year, that’s not a total increase of 20%. It’s closer to 21% because the second year’s increase acts on the first year’s increase. With this in mind, I calculate the three year increase to be 8.97%.

    Also, I can cite online sources for each town’s salary increase. Just ask and I will be glad to show the sources here.

    Please, Brd. Of Selectmen, I ask you to have a discussion with the Brd. Of Education. It is easy for us to claim the contract is good for Ridgefield, but from what I see, I have trouble understanding that conclusion. I think this is worth discussing with the Brd. Of Education.

  • I hope ABordeaux will speak up at the BoS mtg next wed when the BoS is slated to discuss the teacher contract. The BoS & BoE will drag in their experts’ opinions based on who-knows-what (sort of reminds me of the rating agencies passing on the mortgage bundles) so the other side needs its own citizen experts. You appear to be one of them. Good research.

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