At the last Glen Cove Board of Education meeting, it was suggested that a way to avoid job eliminations in the 2009-10 budget would be to agree that unions would not take increases in pay (aside from step increases for years of experience).
Superintendent Dr. Lawrence Aronstein said that the costs that bring the budget higher are health insurance premiums and Teachers Retirement Systems contributions. He went on to state that salaries and employee benefits make up about 75 percent of the total budget. Because of this, cutting costs means cutting jobs.
"That is where the money is," Dr. Aronstein told the Record Pilot last week, "Education is labor intensive, so to cut spending, we have to take a look at salaries and benefits. The rest of the costs are insignificant or their prices are fixed."
With layoffs potentially on the horizon, the superintendent said that he had approached the various unions that work within the district to see if they could negotiate a deal whereby no job cuts would take place. He said that if the unions could agree to a zero percent salary increase in 2009-10, then they could save jobs.
Karen Ferguson, president of the Glen Cove Teachers Association, the biggest union unit in the Glen Cove School District, spoke to the Record Pilot about this issue, explaining the union position.
"The superintendent did call me in to meet on the pay cuts," Ms. Ferguson said. "But there was no way our unit would support it right now."
She said that the teachers had only recently been paid for a contract they were negotiating for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. They had been without a contract throughout that period of time, which meant that they had not experienced pay increases in those years.
"The teachers have been dragged through enough to be asked for a pay decrease right now," Ms. Ferguson said. "We lose big when we go without a contract. The district has saved money for two years and has been making money on that money while we have been harmed in the process. We don't have the advantage of making money on the interest of that money that was held from us."
The association president also said that she did not feel she was getting enough of a secure guarantee that no teachers would be laid off if this agreement was made. She said they are also still trying to collect some other money owed to them.
In response to these statements on behalf of the union, Superintendent Aronstein told the Record Pilot, "Teachers have received virtually all of the retroactive salaries due them. Over the course of the negotiations, eligible teachers received their 3.5 percent step increases. To set the record straight, interest earned was certainly not a motivator on the board's part and was not that significant. That said, it is my sincere belief that our teachers deserved their increases, which were in line with what teachers make in school districts across Nassau County. I continue to respect our teachers for the fine work they do."
The superintendent did say that he hopes New York State aid to Glen Cove will be higher than originally projected or federal programs will make it possible to make up for lost aid. In this case, it will be his recommendation to the board of education that no employee cuts are made for 2009-10.