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EXCLUSIVE: BC TEACHER'S UNION TO MAKE CONCESSIONS

The Bethlehem Central Teachers Association has renegotiated its union contract with the school in a move that district officials say contains significant concessions and will save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The amended contract includes a two-year extension as the current one expires in 2010 and would carry through until the end of the 2011-12 school year. Superintendent Michael Tebbano said if the renegotiated contract passes a union vote it would save the district more the $600,000 by the end of next year.

The main concessions come in the form of deferring cost-of-living increases for four months next year and for three months the year after, but also include moratoriums on sabbaticals and professional development stipends and a freeze on coaching salaries.

Retirement incentives are also being offered in hopes of replacing some teachers at a cost savings to the district, according to Tebbano who said about 44 teachers are currently eligible to take advantage of early retirement over the next two years.

Currently teachers are scheduled to receive a 3.25 percent cost of living increase, combined with step increases the union contract calls for an average of 5.63 percent in salary increases.

After next year's cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), the new contract would give teachers a 2.75 percent COLA in 2010-11 and a 2 percent COLA increase in 2011-12 that could increase an additional 0.5 percent if the economy is doing better.

It would be subject to the inflationary rate of that year, according to Tebbano.

The new contract is completely tentative at this point, according to district spokesman Matt Leon, and has to be voted on by the BCTA and passed by two-thirds of its membership before it can be adopted by the board of education and put into effect. The district's teacher's union currently covers 465 employees at the school.

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