By Tessa Raebeck
Twenty Bridgehampton School teachers showed up at the district’s Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, October 22, to prompt administrators to move forward with their contract negotiations.
“We are all here tonight because we as a union are not happy with the negotiation process; it seems to have stalled,” Bridgehampton Teacher’s Association (BTA) President Helen Wolfe told the board. “We have come to tell you that we’re not happy with the process.”
The district is in its second year of negotiations with the teachers’ union. Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre said Tuesday she could not comment on the negotiations because they are ongoing.
Ronnie White, president of the school board, said the board is following the standard procedures under the Taylor Law, the 1967 New York State law that established a government agency to mediate contract disputes, and allows public employees to organize and elect union representatives, while prohibiting them from going on strike.
“We are negotiating, we believe that we will eventually come up with something that makes sense,” Mr. White said Tuesday. “At this point in time, it’s a process, and we believe that that process will see the light at the end of the tunnel at some point, but both sides have been working diligently to come up with something that makes sense.”
“There are definitely some things that are up for negotiation and we’re seeing if we can come to a compromise,” he added.
Although Mr. White said he cannot guarantee that compromise will have been reached by the time next year’s budget is adopted, he said he is “confident and hopeful that we will be if not there, then extremely close.”
For the 2012-13 school year, the first year Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2-percent tax levy limit on school districts and municipalities affected Bridgehampton’s budget, the school’s teachers agreed to a hard freeze on their salaries. The teachers forfeited all raises, including step increases, saving the district about $93,000 and making it possible for the school to meet the state-mandated tax cap.
The board adopted a budget that pierced the tax cap for the 2014-15 school year. It did not get the required 60-percent supermajority on the district’s first try in May, but residents approved the budget in a second vote in June. Several positions were cut, and from 2013-14 to 2014-15, the total increase in salaries for teachers in grades pre-kindergarten through 12 increased by $26,997.
Over the past two years, the district has not replaced a principal, a part-time technology teacher, a business teacher, a guidance director, a head custodian and a main office secretary in order to cut costs and preserve other programs.