Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00
Recently, we, as your elected members of the Carle Place Board of Education, have received questions from community members concerning the status of the school district’s negotiations with the Carle Place Teachers’ Association. We would like the community to know that while we want to negotiate a fair contract with the teachers’ union, this contract must be fair to our taxpayers as well. There appears to be a lot of inaccurate information circulating in the community concerning the current negotiations, and we would like to set the record straight.
The average salary for Carle Place Teachers is $112,435. In this respect, more than 83 percent of Carle Place teachers are making more than $100,000 per year. In addition, Carle Place teachers receive generous benefits not typically seen in the corporate world, including health insurance for which they only pay 10 percent. Moreover, they also receive substantial pension benefits upon retirement.
As of 2011 (according to data available from the NYS Teachers’ Retirement System), Carle Place teacher salaries ranked the 14th highest of over 700 public school districts in New York State outside of New York City.
Even though the last teachers’ contract “expired” on June 30, 2011, the fact is that the teachers are working with a contract. Specifically, under the “Triborough Amendment” to the Taylor Law, teachers are still working under the terms and conditions of the last contract which expired. This means that for teachers with less than 18 years’ experience, they continue to receive “step” increases which have averaged 2.7 percent of salary per teacher each year, with several teachers receiving as much as 4.7 percent and no one receiving less than 1.2 percent. In the first nine years, the lowest increase is 3.5 percent. The only difference is that teachers do not receive salary increases which are in addition to their “step” increases.
We have just marked the five-year anniversary of the financial meltdown in the United States, and many of us are still coping with the changes that this has wrought. Job loss, job scarcity and negative wage growth have impacted many people, and our community has not been immune to this. In addition, this district, along with others, must attempt to operate within the confines of the new “property tax cap” which imposes substantial budgetary restrictions upon the district’s operations. The revenue limitations posed by the tax cap (projected to be only 1.5 percent for next year) and the difficult property tax burden that our homeowners face, are significant matters for the Board of Education. These factors limit the extent to which the community can pay for salaries, and these circumstances must be considered in the current negotiations.
The rate of growth in school district spending is unsustainable, and salaries and benefits are, by far, the largest portion of our expenditures. Our overriding negotiating guideline is simple: we have to be fair to our taxpayers as well as to our employees. “Fairness” does not simply mean a contractual resolution that is financially acceptable; it also means that we haven’t sacrificed staff, programs and class size in order to fund a settlement. Teacher layoffs are not healthy for individuals, nor for the quality of the school district.
Since the spring of 2011, our representatives have met with the Teachers’ Association on numerous occasions to negotiate a resolution. There were five sessions in 2011 and six in 2012. This year we have held three mediated negotiation sessions, one of which included direct participation by all members of the Board. While we had hoped for progress, significant differences remain. The next mediation session is scheduled for October 21st, which will be followed by a mediation session with the Board members present on October 23, 2013.
While we would like to see a successful end to our contract negotiations, we cannot agree to a resolution which will hurt our taxpayers, severely injure our educational program and prevent us from meeting our expenses. Nevertheless, we will continue to negotiate in good faith in an effort to achieve a fair and equitable settlement.
Thank you for your patience and continued support for our schools.
The Carle Place Board of Education:
Barry M. Dennis, President
Joseph LoCurto, Vice President
Anthony Bulzomi, Trustee
John DiFrisco, Trustee
Lawrence F. Zaino, Jr., Trustee