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A pay freeze New Milford teachers agree to do their part in tough budget times

Published 7:27 pm, Wednesday, September 29, 2010
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Teachers in the New Milford school district have agreed to accept pay and step-level salary freezes for next year.

The move was applauded this week by school board members.

Board of Education chairman Wendy Faulenbach said Monday she was officially notified just after noon that teachers had accepted the agreement giving them no salary increases, and higher co-payments for at least one of their medical insurance benefits, for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

"This is excellent news,'' Ms. Faulenbach said.

School board members voted to ratify the negotiated contract Thursday night.

Over the summer, the New Milford Education Association and school board negotiating teams went through a mediation process resulting in a proposed contract for 2011-12 that would freeze salaries and step increases.

Teachers also will pay more to visit medical specialists.

With this contract, the mid-range pay for a teacher with a master's degree is $57,529 and the top step for a teacher with a doctorate is $88,735. Teachers currently pay 17 percent toward their medical insurance benefits.

In the past winter budget season, teachers and other union-represented staff members were asked to consider salary concessions for the current year because economic conditions were leading to staff layoffs.

The teachers did not make concessions, but leaders said the five-year contract approved in October 2008 included both salary and insurance concessions. The contract also allowed for renegotiation of salaries and insurance benefits in the final year.

With that option, negotiations between the teachers and the school board continued toward this latest proposal.

"The teachers are cognizant of the current economic climate," said Bill Knipple, the union vice president, who did not have the final vote tally, "and at this time we thought the settlement was in the best interest of the NMEA, the Board of Education and the town.''

On Thursday night, the school board voted 6-2 to accept the new agreement. Board members William Wellman and Nancy LaTour opposed the deal and board member Dan Nichols was absent.

The contract will be forwarded to the Town Council for a 30-day review, after which it would go into effect.