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State College Teachers' Union Offers One-Year Pay Freeze

on April 11, 2011 6:12 AM

The union representing State College Area School District teachers has offered to accept a one-year salary freeze, union President Holli Jo Warner confirmed Sunday.

In a e-mail message sent Wednesday to the State College Area Education Association membership, Warner wrote that the offer was extended "with the hope of relieving the district's budget crisis and preventing furloughs." StateCollege.com obtained a copy of the correspondence.

Reached by phone Sunday, Warner confirmed she wrote the e-mail message. She said the one-year freeze offer is part of a "whole negotiations package" as the union attempts to establish a new, multi-year contract with the district. The SCAEA's current contract is due to expire in mid-2011.

Warner declined to talk about other elements of the union's contract proposals, since negotiations are happening right now. She said that union and district representatives are meeting consistently, that proposals are being "exchanged in good faith," and that there's "no stall" in the process.

The union presented an initial proposal to the district on March 21, according to Warner's e-mail message to association members.

"Our goal and intention is to preserve and protect our membership to the greatest extent possible," Warner wrote in the message. "With that goal in mind and based on the current economic climate, the association's position did include a one-year salary freeze with the hope of relieving the district's budget crisis and preventing furloughs."

Members of the school board have not discussed details of the negotiation process in public. The union and the district have a confidentiality agreement in effect during the process.

Initial district budget plans for the 2011-2012 school year had included an overall 3.5 percent increase in the salary line item. That would bring salary expenses next year to nearly $61.6 million.

Freezing salaries district-wide would drop that figure to $59.5 million, district budget documents show.

The district administration also has proposed a variety of attrition-based cutbacks and furloughs that would further reduce the salary-expense number to $56.16 million. An introduction of those proposed cuts -- among others -- is on the agenda for Monday's school-board meeting and for a community meeting Wednesday at Mount Nittany Middle School. (Additional details are available in this earlier report.)

If the board adopts no cost reductions, it will face a budget deficit of $4.6 million to $8.3 million next year, thanks to a number of fiscal factors. Board members have made it clear that they're not willing to operate that far in the red.

In March, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett called for public-school teachers statewide to consider a one-year pay freeze in light of the state's economic circumstances. James P. Testerman, the president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a statewide teachers' union with 191,000 members, echoed Corbett's call later in the month.

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