School Board Member Eric Gordon to Teachers: I Won't Forget Pay Freeze Refusal
Official says he will consider personnel cuts before raising taxes after teachers union refuses board's offer to take pay freeze.
Seneca Valley School Board member Eric Gordon had a message Monday night for the district's teachers union: Come next year, he won’t forget its refusal to accept a one-year pay freeze sought by the district to cut costs.
“My message to them is, because they weren’t helpful when they needed to be, I’m going take that into consideration next year when we’re budgeting,” he said at the board's meeting.
After addressing a $10 million deficit the district faced for the next school year, Officials voted 5-4 in May to approve a $94.5 million spending plan that will increase real estate taxes by 5.6 mills and curtail a half-dozen district program.
Gordon said he has since been flooded with concerns from residents in his region upset over the budget.
"People were pretty upset as far as the tax increase goes," he said.
He said his message Monday, which was delivered in the public comment portion of the meeting, reflected the view of residents in his region. He added he would consider cutting more teaching jobs rather than raise taxes again during next year's budget process.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “So is the community that we had to cut as deep as we did so that senior teachers could have a couple of extra bucks in their paycheck.”
The Seneca Valley Education Association last month said no to that request from the board asking teachers to agree to a voluntary pay freeze for one year. Teachers union President Nick Ierino, in a letter sent then to the board, said teachers did not want to discuss changes to their contract at that time.
Ierino could not be reached for immediate comment on Gordon's remarks Monday night.
In September, district officials approved a five-year, early-bird contract with its teachers. Gordon said the contract includes a 3.25 percent pay increase.
If the teachers union had accepted a pay freeze, some of the district's junior educators might not have faced layoffs, Gordon said. Board member Eric DiTullio said a freeze would have saved the district about $1 million.
Gordon also said union officials did not permit its members to vote on the district's request. He said he believes a majority of teachers may have agreed to the freeze if they'd been permitted to vote on it.
“They were willing to sacrifice teachers to keep a 3.25-percent increase,” he said. “That’s what they did by saying no.”
Due to cuts or alterations in the business education, physical education, foreign language, guidance, elementary education and alternative learning center programs, 16 full-time teaching positions and one part-time position are expected to be lost.
The budget also calls for the elimination of support positions, including two nursing, seven library and four building positions, and one preschool and one SAVE position.
In March, the board accepted the retirement of 36 teachers, which is expected to save the district $2.88 million. At the same time, the district’s 49-person administrative staff agreed to a one-year pay freeze.