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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Approval not easy on delaying raise for school administrators

By Dave Moran
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday March 24, 2010

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WALLINGFORD— After a lengthy, at times spirited debate, the Town Council voted 5-4 Tuesday to accept an amendment to the educational administrators’ union contract that delays a pay increase in exchange for furlough days. The amendment is projected to save the school system almost $100,000 in 2010-11.

The council’s intense scrutiny of the issue, and the opposing ideologies it revealed among councilors, could foreshadow an even more intense debate in mid-April, when the council will review and vote on the school system’s budget request for the coming fiscal year. School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo and members of the Board of Education came to the council Tuesday seeking approval of an amendment and extension of the administrators’ contract. Menzo said the union, which represents 21 administrators in the school system, had a contract through the 2010-11 fiscal year. Earlier this year, the union offered to forgo a 3.75 percent pay increase in exchange for nine furlough days, a one-year extension of the contract and the guarantee of no layoffs.

Under the revised contract, the administrators would get the 3.75 percent increase in 2011-12, Menzo said, but the savings in 2010-11 would amount to about $100,000.

Members of the Board of Education praised the administrators union for voluntarily approaching the school system with the giveback and urged the council to accept the offer.

“This is a true, sincere effort to help our school community. We’re talking about $100,000 in givebacks,” said Roxane Mc Kay, a Republican who is vice chairwoman of the school board. “To not approve this is setting a precedent for other unions to not consider any concessions.” Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., a Republican, urged the council not to approve the agreement because it still con­tained a wage increase. The increase would only be delayed a year, Dickinson said, and the budget is projected to be even worse then.

“It does set a bar, and it certainly is a high bar,” Dickinson said. “If you look beyond the one budget year, it creates a real problem for us in trying to control the cost of government and the cost of delivering services.”

After debating the issue for more than an hour, in closed executive session and in public, the council voted to approve the request. All three Democrats and Republicans Vincent Cervoni and John Le Tourneau voted to approve the agreement, while Republicans Jerry Farrell Jr., Craig Fishbein, Robert Parisi and Rosemary Rascati opposed it.

Those favoring the agreement said they voted for it because the administrators would get a pay increase anyway, and the concessions offered immediate savings.

After Dickinson unveils his budget on April 1, the council will hold workshops to review the plan department by department. Budget adoption is due by the second week of May.

The school system takes up about 60 percent of the town’s overall budget, and the school board has asked for a 4.56 percent increase over 2009-10 spending. Dickinson is expected to cut the request.

Menzo said the savings realized by the administrators’ concessions have already been factored into the budget proposal. “It’s already taken out,” Menzo said. “We would have had to put it back in” if the council didn’t approve it.

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