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BCTA to put partial wage freeze to members

Bethlehem Central teachers will soon be voting on a proposal to take a partial wage freeze next school year.

The freeze on contractual salary increases for 70 percent of the year would save the school district about $1.2 million, according to Bethlehem Central Teachers Association President David Rounds.

The only thing that's expected is that every penny be used to save jobs, he said.

Rounds added the BCTA approached the district several months ago on the issue when the severity of the fiscal situation became clear.

The district is facing a $4 million budget gap. The school board is in the midst of the budgeting process, but a proposal from district administration would involve the elimination of 42 teaching positions. Some of those would involve teachers taking early retirement, but the majority would be layoffs.

Rounds estimated the partial wage freeze and the retirements could bring the number of teacher layoffs down below 20. Eliminating layoffs altogether is something the union just wouldn't be equipped to do alone, he said.

"In order to save 42 positions, you would have to basically somehow come up with $2.6 million," he said. "There's really nothing we could do short of cutting peoples' salaries."

The union members still have to approve the contract amendment. A 2/3 majority vote will be required, and the vote will be taken by secret ballot on March 24.

The school district declined comment until the union vote has been taken.""

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