(Editor's Note: The following is the Floral Park-Bellerose School District Board of Education's response to the March 20 letter to the editor regarding teacher contract negotiations.)

The Floral Park-Bellerose School District Board of Education has an ongoing responsibility to the children, taxpayers and all employees of our school district. We must look at the whole picture when negotiating any bargaining unit's demands for pay raises. We must also consider how our decisions today will affect our financial stability in the future. Next year, we stand to lose approximately $400,000 in state aid. The following year, it could be more. We could be facing major deficits as our state aid continues to decline. Our funding of the retirement systems could hit double digits. In light of this, the Board of Education has been and is trying to settle a fair contract with the Teachers' Association.

After the Floral Park-Bellerose Board of Education and the Floral Park-Bellerose District Teachers' Association first met on June 24, 2008, contract proposals were exchanged on Sept. 15. Seven more negotiation sessions followed. In an effort to move the process forward, the Board and the Teachers' Association jointly declared an impasse and selected a mediator who has already offered a date for the first session.

Unfortunately, the current economy has made this year's negotiations particularly challenging for all, and every Nassau County school district that is currently negotiating with its teachers has yet to reach a settlement. In the case of the Floral Park-Bellerose District, the Board of Education and the Teachers' Association disagree regarding our taxpayers' ability to pay for the raises and fringe benefits proposed by the teachers.

In 2005, the year of the Board's last negotiations with the teachers, the services of a mediator were utilized and a fair and equitable settlement was reached. Now, with the assistance of a mediator who is respected by both parties, the Board of Education looks forward to the opportunity to move the negotiations process forward in 2009 and reach a settlement quickly.

The Floral Park-Bellerose School District Board of Education

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