Tentative givebacks set at Guilford schools

Published: Friday, May 15, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — The Board of Education has reached tentative concession agreements with the school district’s employees that will avoid layoffs for the coming fiscal year, board members announced at a special meeting Thursday night.

The agreements, which would save an estimated $750,000, are contingent on Guilford’s proposed $75.51 million budget passing at referendum Tuesday.

Since voters last month rejected a $77.12 million budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year, the board and Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella have been negotiating with the district’s bargaining units — which represent teachers, paraeducators and secretaries, custodians, and administrators — to make changes to contractual salary increases.

Following the failed referendum, the Board of Finance cut the school district’s budget by $1.18 million. The remainder of the cut after the $750,000 in concessions will be made up of program changes and the elimination of a bus route, Forcella said Thursday.

The majority of the $750,000 savings comes from the teachers union, which represents approximately $620,000 in reduced salary increases and an early retirement incentive. The paraeducators and clerical staff have agreed to a reduction of $48,000 in negotiated salary increases, while the custodians and maintenance workers represent a cut of $26,000. The $33,000 in savings from the administrators comes in the form of increased payments to their health insurance premiums.

Forcella said that the parties still need to “dot the i’s and cross the t’s” on the agreements, but added, “I feel confident it will happen.”

An audience of about 40 people waited while the Board of Education met in executive session for more than an hour, and cheered the announcement.

“Sometimes out of the most challenging circumstances we wind up with good news,” said Board of Education Chairman William Bloss. “This is an outstanding day for education in Guilford.”

Bloss said that the agreement included the condition that the concessions would avoid layoffs. But he added that the work to reach the concessions would be “decimated” if the budget fails Tuesday.

“I urge you to have some confidence in the promise of our future as a community, as a state and a country and confidence in the power of education to deliver that promise,” he said.

Board members thanked the employees and Forcella for the work that went into the agreements. “There’s a great appreciation for all the work with great respect for all the bargaining units and all the staff in the school system,” Ted Zuse said.

The budget referendum is scheduled for Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For a list of polling locations, visit www.ci.guilford.ct.us.

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