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East Allegheny teachers contract deadline looms

| Saturday, June 9, 2012, 10:13 a.m.

A war of words has broken out in East Allegheny School District, as teachers again accept a fact-finder's contract recommendations and the school board prepares for another vote Monday night on those findings.

All that comes as a June 30 expiration date looms for a three-year contract between the district and its 128-member teachers union.

A statement posted by the school board on the district's website Friday morning denied charges by East Allegheny Education Association president Lou Gerbi that the board of directors had been playing games.

It said the teachers "have one of the best wage and benefit programs in Allegheny County" with starting and top salary rates among the highest in suburban Pittsburgh.

"The average teacher's salary is higher than 35 out of the 42 school districts," the school board statement read. It also said, in part: "The district has met many times over the last six months in bargaining with the teachers association without the teachers onceaccepting that the district and its taxpayers are making a great effort in good faith to provide education for the district's youth and to reach a settlement with the Education Association."

That statement coincided with an EAEA news release, issued through the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which announced a Thursday vote on recommendations made by fact-finder Robert C. Gifford.

"Our teachers continue to display their willingness to accept concessions in order to help our students and the district," Gerbi said. "We are hopeful that the school board will step up and do the right thing this time by also accepting this report."

Gerbi also said, "We are willing to help out, but we are not willing to be bullied."

Gifford accepted the recommendation of both sides that there be a wage freeze in the coming year, but went with the teachers on the length of a subsequent contract (three rather than five years).

He also recommended increases of one-half of one percent in wages in the second and third years of a contract. EAEA said he also recommended that teachers pay 43 percent more for their health insurance over the next three years.

"The increase recommended is from $60 to $100 a month over three years," the district statement said. "This is not nearly enough. This would increase the teachers' contribution to about 5 percent of the premium for the best health insurance money can buy with low co-pays and deductibles."

Gerbi also pointed out that the district's special labor counsel Bruce Campbell requested fact-finding on April 3.The school board rejected Gifford's findings at a special meeting last week. It will consider the findings again Monday at 7 p.m. in the district administration building on the high school campus along Jacks Run Road in North Versailles Township.

The board also is expected to vote on a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The "proposed final budget" of more than $30.7 million passed last month did not include any change in the tax rate.

The district rebutted the union's recommendation as reported by Gifford that taxes be raised at least to the level allowed by state Act 1.

For 2012-13, that would mean an increase of about two-thirds of one mill from the current level of 27.54 mills. Each mill nets approximately $462,000.

"The district has the highest taxes as measured by the state Department of Education of every school district in Allegheny County, except Wilkinsburg," the school board statement read.