Following an executive session held by the Bethlehem Board of Education at 8:15 in the morning on Thursday, June 26, the board unanimously approved the Bethlehem Central United Employee Association (BCUEA) contract, effective July 1 until June 30, 2012.
The settlement includes significant employee health insurance concessions that will reduce district expenditures, according to a release from the district, and the new contract contains an average annual overall increase of 2.6 percent plus step increases over the life of the contract.
The BCUEA encompasses the district's support staff, including bus drivers, custodians and secretaries. Their last four-year contract contained an average salary increase of 3.1 percent per year plus step increases. The starting salary for first-year bus drivers is $29,247 and for first-year custodians, $30,756, according to district records.
The new contract's insurance cost reductions will save the district an estimated $210,000 in 2008-09, according to the district's spokesman, Matt Leon.
The way the school conducts its salary contract negotiations has come under some criticism recently by Citizen Budget Group member John Giordano, who in a June 18 article in Spotlight Newspapers titled Citizen Budget Group member wants more participation said he wanted to open up the negotiation process. A letter to the editor have been submitted to Spotlight Newspapers about the matter (see page 8).
The school said it wishes to maintain its current process of engaging in contract talks between the teachers' unions and the school board elected to represent the district's interests.
Another resident, Philip Carter, who owns a consulting business in Slingerlands, has also raised concerns over the matter and has sent several e-mails to the school district asking about its budget process.
In one of the e-mails, Carter questioned the school board about its last budget vote on May 20, which passed with about 60 percent approval.