Officials hope a wage freeze will follow
The Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District is steeling itself for budget season by adopting a budget freeze for the remainder of this school year, and will soon be taking up the issue of a wage freeze.
The freeze, approved in a split vote by the school board at a Tuesday, Feb. 15, meeting, suspends any field trips and equipment or materials purchases that were not already approved before the vote. Other non-essential spending like conferences or workshops were also put on hold. Activities funded entirely by grants will continue, and exceptions may be made through an administrative review.
The release of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget, in which state aid to RCS is slashed by about $2.4 million, prompted the budget freeze, said Superintendent Daniel Teplesky.
`Last year, RCS froze the budget in October, which returned a savings of approximately $100,000,` he said. `Coming in February of this year, we look for a savings between $40,000 and $50,000.`
A freeze won’t close the district’s budget gap, however. The decrease in aid coupled with rising pension costs and contractual salary increases are combining to create a situation that is putting schools across the state in a difficult position for next year.
Teplesky on Feb. 15 announced he would take a pay freeze in the coming year, and said he’s going to implore Cuomo to change state law to allow districts to institute wage freezes for employees. Under existing laws, unions must voluntarily take a freeze.
Movements are underway in schools across the state to appeal to unions to make concessions, with varying results. Administrators often argue that this year, it’s either wage freezes or massive layoffs.
`I agree with Gov. Cuomo, in the very difficult times we’re in employees should move forward and say, yes, we should take a pay freeze,` Teplesky said. `However, we’re under contracts with all of our bargaining units.`
Teplesky said he would take the matter up at the next meeting of the school board on Tuesday, March 1, and possibly solicit the board’s support on a letter to the governor. The superintendent added he would approach unions before instituting a freeze, should the district have that power.
Last year, the RCS administrators bargaining unit took a wage freeze, but any major budget impact would be felt in decisions from unions with more members, such as the teachers union.
Board of Education President Scott Hughes said he doesn’t want to hurt families, but he’d be compelled to support a wage freeze.
`When we look at where we are economically…we have to look at things like wage freezes,` he said, adding he hopes to see union concessions this year.
`We’re hoping that the superintendent leading by example really helps people pull together,` he said.
The district is this year operating on a $42.2 million contingency budget, adopted after voters turned down the district’s original proposal.
The next budget workshop will be held Tuesday, March 15. An April 5 budget adoption is anticipated, with the public vote on the budget set for May 17.