Schenectady County

Schalmont teachers’ impasse hits 2-year mark

It has been two years, and Schalmont teachers still do not have a new contract with the district.

It has been two years, and Schalmont teachers still do not have a new contract with the district.

The Schalmont Teachers Association’s contract expired June 30, 2009.

Board of Education President Kevin Thompson said he remains optimistic, despite no concrete signs of progress in salary and benefits. School officials are trying to hold the line because of the challenging fiscal climate, especially in light of the new state 2 percent property tax cap.

“The Board of Education does not want to be in a position where as a result of approving that contract, we’re going to have to make reductions in our current programs, services and activities,” he said.

The district kept its tax levy increase below 1 percent in the past few years and did not increase it at all this year. However, health insurance costs alone are going up more than 2 percent a year.

“We’re going to be challenged with how to be able to maintain a low tax increase,” he said.

Thompson said the contract negotiators have to keep these cost constraints in mind.

Two contracts recently approved with the Schalmont support staff and administrators contained only modest raises. The Schalmont School Related Professionals Association will see an average salary increase of less than 2 percent, and the Schalmont Administrators Association will get 1.25 percent. Both contracts also included an increased share of health insurance premiums.

In addition, Superintendent Valerie Kelsey is freezing her salary for the next two years, and Business Administrator Mark Kellett agreed to a 1.5 percent salary increase for 2011-12 and no increase for the following year.

Proposals are still going back and forth between the school district and the teachers’ union, and both sides are meeting with a mediator, according to Thompson.

Another complication is the fact that school contracts are frequently for three years. Even if both sides were to reach agreement now, they soon would be right back at the table. “It’s difficult to plan that without having a teachers’ contract in place,” he said. “The board is doing what we can for the community to maintain our programs. We don’t want to increase class sizes.”

Schalmont Teachers Association President Mary Beth Flatley could not be reached for comment for this story.

Thompson said he would like to have something approved before classes resume in the fall. “I’m optimistic that we can come to some type of agreement. I sense that they are, too. We’re just not there yet.”

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