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Bethlehem teachers OK new contract

In a move expected to save the Bethlehem Central School District hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Bethlehem Central Teachers Association voted to renegotiate its contract.

The newly restructured BCTA contract calls for delays in teachers' cost-of-living agreements (COLA), which district officials say will save district taxpayers around $600,000 next year. Union members agreed to delay their annual COLA from September of 2009 until January of 2010.

The new contract calls for a moratorium on teacher sabbaticals and coaching salaries, ending in 2012.

The concessions come from deferring cost-of-living increases for four months next year and for three months the year after, but the moratoriums on sabbaticals and professional development stipends also save $97,500. The freeze on coaching salaries is expected to save an additional $25,000. There will also be a fringe benefit savings of $75,600 according to the terms of the tentative contract.

BCTA president David Rounds commended the collaborative effort on such a sensitive issue.

I give credit to both parties for keeping the lines of communication open in order to get this deal done, Rounds said. "Both sides were working under tremendous pressure, and we were still able to come to terms that maintain the integrity of working conditions and most importantly saves the district money during this difficult financial period."

District officials call the union vote "overwhelmingly" in favor of the contract change, with 98 percent voting in favor. Rounds said only eight union members voted against renegotiating the district contract.

"This agreement will strengthen our financial position as we continue to grapple with an economy that is difficult for both school districts and taxpayers," Superintendent Michael Tebbano stated in a release on the vote. "I am proud of our faculty stepping up and meeting these challenges with the school district and our community."

The Bethlehem Board of Education has to officially adopt the new contract before it can take effect.

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