Port Chester's teachers could close the district's budget gap if they agree to cap salary increases and settle on one insurance carrier instead of three currently offered to union members, according to several people familiar with ongoing negotiations.
If the Port Chester Teachers Association agreed to the proposed concessions, about 30 jobs could be saved and the school district would not have to to half a day, sources say. The concession could also save the Early Learning Center.
Currently, teachers can choose between Oxford, Aetna and the State-Wide Schools Cooperative Health Plan, or SWSCHP. If the teachers union agrees to go with one provider, and to a one percent salary increase each year for the next three years, the school district would save enough money to close the remaining budget gap, according to several people with knowledge of the proposals.
The teachers union contract expired on June 30, 2011.
After an increase in state aid, Port Chester's budget gap remains at more than $2.1 million.
The insurance proposal from the Board of Education was met with resistance from the teacher's union because it could force some teachers to switch physicians. Leaders from both sides agreed to bring in a mediator, but talks have stalled and mediation hasn't begun yet, according to a party familiar with the discussions.
Several people who provided information for this story requested anonymity because they are restricted from discussing the negotiations publicly.
This year's school budget is . Pension and healthcare mandates, combined with the new two percent tax levy increase cap, originally put the school district in a $4 million hole. The district recently received , and at the urging of school leaders, parents and taxpayers have conducted an to flood state representatives with appeals for more assistance.
Members of the community have also given state representatives an earful at a series of on school budget woes, such as a held by Assemblyman George Latimer in New Rochelle City Hall.
Over the past five years, the school district has cut student programs, like the , while positions considered non-essential have been slashed or reduced to part-time hours.
But this year's budget sacrifices cut deep into programs many parents and members of the school community consider essential. The JFK Early Learning Center houses a dozen kindergarten and first-grade classes in leased space at Holy Rosary School. It was established in 2008 to alleviate overcrowding in the district's elementary schools.
A report last week in the Westmore News quotes quotes Board of Education member Bob Johnson saying the program is on the chopping block.
Talk of eliminating the Early Learning Center means some teachers and staff "are in a panic," one school employee said.
The Board of Education will present its initial budget to the public at a scheduled meeting tonight. The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and has been shifted to the auditorium at Port Chester Middle School to accommodate what is expected to be a large crowd of parents, teachers and taxpayers.
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