Liverpool teachers' union rejects pay freeze option

UPDATE: Teachers and faculty in the Liverpool Central School District say they will not reopen their contact with the district and accept a pay freeze.

"Currently our raises are really, fairly minimal and to take a wage freeze was really more than we needed to do. We've already made concessions along the way," said Faculty Association President Pattie Miller. The raise is just over 2% which Miller says is lower than other school districts in the area.

Miller says the current agreement expires at the end of the 2011-12 school year and already includes several concessions like a reduction in the retirement savings plan, and cost-saving changes in their health plan.

Last week, superintendent Richard Johns asked the members of the United Liverpool Faculty Association to agree to a wage freeze for the 2011-2012 school year. It would have saved about $1.5 million dollars. The district says it was facing a budget gap of $4.5 million before the state aid cut, now it could be upwards of $7 million. The school board says spending needs to be cut somewhere and it will likely come down to programs and people.

Last year, the district had to close an $11 million deficit and laid off 130 people. "We also cut programs very, very deeply last year," said School Board President Don Cook. 'There's only so much you can cut and still meet state mandates so it's going to be interesting give and take over the next few weeks."

Liverpool teacher salaries range from approximately $45,000 a year for starting teachers to nearly $80,000 for longtime teachers in the district. You can read the entire teacher contract here.

"They deserve their money they shouldn't have to freeze their wages. They should get more than what they get, the cuts should be made somewhere else not out of the teachers pockets," said parent Mary O'Shaughnessy.

"I think there ought to be some wiggle room in the negotiations on both parts, everybody seems to be dug in and I don't see a need for that. Especially in this economy people need to be a little flexible," said Rich Chapman.

The ULFA represents teachers, teaching assistants, teacher aides, clerical staff and substitutes and numbers at nearly 1,000 members.

Here is the complete text of the press release from the teachers' union:

In response to the Superintendent of School TMs appeal to the employees of the Liverpool Central School District that they agree to freeze their wages at 2010-11 levels for the 2011-12 school year, United Liverpool Faculty Association (ULFA) leadership has respectfully declined to open its contract at this time. ULFA represents all Teachers, Teaching Assistants, Teacher Aides, Clerical Staff and Per-diem Substitutes employed by the District (nearly 1000 unit members).

ULFA members are covered by a contract that was bargained in good faith between the District and ULFA. The parties took every opportunity to build an agreement that addressed the economic downturn. The agreement will expire at the end of the 2011-12 school-year and includes several concessions to the District such as the following:

- a new more comprehensive evaluation system,- significant reduction in the retirement savings plan,- raises in the 2nd and 3rd years significantly lower than those agreed to by school employees regionally,- cost-saving changes in the health plan.

ULFA members have continued to provide a high level education to the District TMs students with 130 fewer teachers and support staff in the current school year than in the last. ULFA members are tax paying members of Central New York communities and are dedicated to providing the very best education possible to the students of the Liverpool Central School District.

Original story from January 31:

Last week Liverpool School District employees were asked to accept a pay freeze for the coming school year.

The request was made by the district in an effort to close the $4.5 million budget gap in the district.

School board members met in the district office for a work session Monday night.

School board president Donald Cook says the pay freeze would save $1.5 million and 30 jobs.

But even with the savings, Cook says the decision to ask employees to freeze their pay was a tough one.

"This is an enormously difficult thing. We're balancing concerns about our employees, concern about our students," Cook says. "We have a responsibility to the education of our kids."

District employees did not want to speak on camera Monday night, but one Liverpool teacher says employees are scared about the possibility of a pay freeze.

The deadline for the budget is February 24th, when Superintendent Richard Johns will present the final version to the school board.