Be reasonable

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At the informational meeting the Sag Harbor School District held on December 18, the district’s attorney presented the board’s contract offer to the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH), the teachers’ union, as well as the demands of TASH.

The board offered what amounts to a 23-percent increase per teacher for a three-year contract. TASH is demanding what amounts to a 27.72-percent increase for a three-year contract. Both figures include salary and benefits for three years. There are other issues on the table, such as health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, domestic partner insurance, personal days, duty periods, course approval, increased pay for field trips, coaching stipends, etc.

Everyone has to ask, “What is reasonable based on today’s economy?” I read an article in the Wall Street Journal by Sarah Needleman titled “Pay Raises Seen Taking a Hit,” dated December 16, 2008. The article analyzes salary trends for many professions, white-collar occupations and blue-collar jobs. Ms. Needleman states that employers are “bringing some workers’ projected annual pay raises to a low not seen in three decades.”

The article analyzes data from trustworthy sources, such as the Wharton School, Hewitt Associates and Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc. Ms. Needleman enumerates what we hear on the news on a daily basis: “Companies are very concerned about managing their fixed costs.” Ms. Needleman cites Professor Peter Cappelli of the Wharton School, who informed us that the “latest salary cuts are particularly noteworthy given employers have eliminated 1.9 million jobs in the past year and various industries may see lower pay gains than others.” Ms. Needleman also states that “Workers in education and financial services are also expected to receive below-average annual merit increases of 2.3 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, down from 3.5 percent and 3.9 percent in July.”

I e-mailed this article to the Board of Education when I heard that the board and TASH’s negotiations hit a roadblock. Fact-finding is the next step in negotiating their contract. I hope that the board, the district’s attorney, and TASH heed the admonitions of this article. Everyone is hurting in this economy. How can the taxpayers afford to cover a large increase in taxes when their salaries, 401Ks and benefits are dwindling? The board should reconsider its overly generous offer. The union should reconsider its unaffordable demands in this economy.

The community is pleased that the district’s teachers have raised the achievement levels of their students. However, the teachers should also value the working conditions of the Sag Harbor District. Their classes are generally small, their student load is low, and, for the most part, the students are a homogeneous group who have excellent family support. The teachers do not need combat pay that other teachers deserve who teach in districts rife with onerous socioeconomic issues.

As I stated in a previous letter, I hope an agreement is reached that is fair to the taxpayers as well as the teachers.

ELENA LORETOSag Harbor

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