Port Chester school officials said today the district and its teachers are at an impasse in contract negotiations, and a state mediator has been appointed in an effort to resolved the deadlock.
The impasse with the Port Chester Teachers Association comes as the district faces a multi-million dollar income shortfall due to the new New York State property tax levy cap law and waning state aid. The union declared an impasse and the district joined in selecting a mediator who will assist in future talks, according to the district.
The state Public Employment Relations Board has named Louis Patack to serve as mediator.
“We value our teachers," school board president Blanca Lopez said. "They are dedicated and work very hard to ensure an excellent education for our students. The district and the PCTA have been engaged in collective bargaining for a new agreement since 2011, meeting on a regular basis since July 30, 2011. The board has always wanted to reach a fair and equitable settlement with the PCTA, while taking steps to deal with the massive reductions in funding that have been imposed upon the district. Unfortunately, the economic conditions have made this agreement difficult to settle.”
Port Chester teachers continue to receive salary increases under the terms of their expired contract.
The district recently concluded negotiations with its administrators’ bargaining unit and its CSEA bargaining unit, which included significant cost savings to the district in the area of health insurance benefit costs.
“The PCTA is privy to financial data that lays out both the short and long term financial challenges facing the district,” said Lopez. “Given the limited resources of our taxpayers and the considerable challenges resulting from the new tax levy cap law and reductions in state aid, it is critical that teacher wage and benefit cost increases reflect a sustainable pace.”
Assemblyman George Latimer, D-Rye, said Tuesday he is hoping the state's new budget agreement could lead to some additional aid to Port Chester to help its difficulties. The school district is scheduled to introduce its budget to the public at its 7:30 p.m. meeting Thursday at Port Chester Middle School.
“We have a responsibility to balance the economic needs of our educators with our obligation to provide an excellent education for our students,” said Lopez. “While the Board and the PCTA are still far apart, we are working hard and are hopeful that we can find a fair and just result for all concerned through the mediation process. We look forward to having mediator Patack join the process to help the parties reach a mutually agreeable settlement.”
Schools Superintendent Edward A. Kliszus said he and the school board hope to resolve the impasses as soon as possible.
“As the new Superintendent of Schools for the district, I have been very impressed with the quality and professionalism of our teaching staff” said Kliszus.
Last week, teachers union president Linda O'Connor said the teachers are aware of the financial pressures faced by the Port Chester school district.
"Throughout the process of negotiations, we have stood ready to commit to a contract that makes sense for all parties concerned: one that not only alleviates the financial strains of the district, but that also compensates the hard-working employees of the district as well, so that the children of Port Chester may continue to receive the excellent education to which they are entitled," O'Connor said. "We remain committed to the process of bargaining in good faith, and we remain ready to commit to a fair contract."