The membership of the Bethlehem Central Teachers Association has approved a partial wage freeze in the coming school year.
Union members will not see their contractual raises for 70 percent of the 2011-12 school year. BCTA President David Rounds said that should save the district between $1.1 and $1.2 million, which the union has stipulated must be used to save instructional jobs.
Hopefully, with some of the money coming back from the state and the concession and some other considerations, hopefully in the end [layoffs] would be somewhere in the low teens, he said.
The BCTA is expected to formally offer up the proposal to the Board of Education at its Wednesday, March 30, meeting, when the school board is slated to make a decision on closing an elementary school. That move could mean several more teaching positions lost.
Superintendent Michael Tebbano praised the union's decision.
"For the second time in three years, BC teachers have agreed to salary concessions to help the district navigate this tough economic climate. I am proud of them for this decision, just like I'm proud of the work they do with our students every day," he said in a written statement. "The Board of Education is working to close a sizable budget gap for next year, and the range of options under consideration has included a significant reduction in teaching positions. The concessions were contingent upon the restoration of some of these positions with the savings, and this announcement puts the district in a position to do that."
The district's budget gap is pegged at $4 million. The latest tentative plans involved cutting 37 faculty, but the school board will examine the instructional part of the budget in depth on April 6, when a budget adoption is expected.
Rounds said the vote held last week returned with support "comfortably above" the 2/3 of membership required to pass the concession. He feels union members wanted to not only help their colleagues, but keep education at BC strong.
"I think in the end our members thought it was very important to try to maintain as much instructional integrity as we possibly could," he said.
The BCTA's contract with the school district runs through the end of the coming school year.""