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Shen and union agree on contract

Shen and union agree on contract

A new three-year-contract between the Shenendehowa Central School District and its 800 CSEA union me

A new three-year-contract between the Shenendehowa Central School District and its 800 CSEA union members includes a 2.5 percent pay increase each of the three years, district officials said Tuesday.

The settlement, which has been in negotiation since January and reached an impasse at one point, also requires the Civil Service Employees Association workers to pay a larger percentage of their health insurance and prescription drug coverage.

“It’s a balancing act,” Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson said about negotiating the new contract during the difficult economic times. He said the district needs to maintain a stable work force but the taxpayers cannot afford large new labor expenses.

The CSEA represents maintenance staff, auto mechanics, food service personnel, teacher aides and monitors, cleaners, transportation workers and nurses. It is the largest collective bargaining unit in the district.

The Board of Education approved the new contract in a unanimous vote. The CSEA members earlier ratified the new contract, which runs through June 30, 2012, by a 4-1 margin, district officials said.

“Our mutual goal entering negotiations was to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of the district while seeking to provide a fair and reasonable contract to our support staff,” Robinson said in a prepared statement.

The board also appointed Benjamin Roberts, currently the assistant principal of Watervliet Elementary School, as principal of Arongen Elementary School, which houses 850 students and a staff of 100. He will start his new job Jan. 11.

Roberts has been at Watervliet since 2007 and prior to that was a fifth-grade teacher for eight years in the South Colonie Central School District.

He lives in the Shenendehowa school district and has four children.

During a budget planning discussion, the school board was presented a three-year financial forecast by Kathleen Wetmore, assistant superintendent for finance.

Wetmore showed potential budget increases of $9.5 million in the 2010-11 school year, $7.5 million in the 2011-12 school year and $5.5 million in the 2012-13 school year.

“This is not a budget,” Robinson said to reporters. He said these financial projections are used as a budget planning tool to show what would happen if spending at the current level was continued into coming years.

Robinson said a great deal of budget work will be done to reduce or eliminate these large increases before the district budget is placed before voters in May.

He said the current 2009-10 budget of $146 million was just a $1.3 million increase, less than 1 percent more than the prior year’s budget.

Robinson said the school board will meet every week during January to work on the 2010-11 budget and “start making critical decisions.”

A continued problem for school districts across the state is the uncertainty about what state aid payments will be like in the coming year.

Robinson said he understood Gov. David Paterson was still thinking about “freezing” state aid in this school year to help address the state’s estimated $3.2 billion deficit. The state Legislature last week decided not to include these midyear state aid cuts in a $2.8 billion deficit reduction package it approved in special session.

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