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Uniontown approves early retirement incentive for teachers

Uniontown Area School Board approved an early retirement incentive package Monday for teachers who have more than 30 years of experience.

Superintendent Charles Machesky said the offer includes a one-time payment of $10,000 for teachers who decide to retire at the end of the school year.

The positions will not be filled and Machesky estimated that the district would save an estimated $83,000 for each retiring teacher.

The school board also approved a motion authorizing the superintendent to notify teachers of a possible reduction in the work force and furloughs if programs are curtailed.

Resident Mitzi Nehls-King asked the superintendent and board members which programs would be curtailed. Machesky said he has no idea at this time.

"I'm quite aware of the financial situation in this school district," Machesky said. "We're really not sure what cutbacks are going to be necessary. Decisions on layoffs would be made by seniority."

Board member Philip Holt made a motion suggesting that the district keep real estate taxes for the 2011-2012 school year at the same level as this year because of "the hardship on the residents and taxpayers in the district."

Holt said the school district has the highest real estate taxes in the area.

"And the lowest teachers' salaries in the area," Nehls-King added. "Where is the money for the new teachers' contract going to come from?"

Board member Terry L. Dawson said just because the motion had been made it didn't mean the board would vote to approve it.

"You absolutely have to adopt a balanced budget or you are not fulfilling your obligations to the taxpayers in the school district," Dawson said.

Holt's motion failed by a 5-3 vote. It was supported by Thomas W. Gerke, Thomas R. George and Holt. Board member Lloyd A. Williams was absent.

During the public comment period, David VanNosdeln, a business owner who has two daughters in the school district, voiced his support for the teachers.

"I understand that the teachers have been offered a two-year wage freeze," he said. "I don't agree with this because the teachers play an important role educating our children. The teachers had no part in putting the district into debt. Teachers who have nine years experience make $10,000 to $20,000 less than teachers in neighboring districts with the same amount of time."

When VanNosdeln requested that the school board offer the teachers a fair contract "and show them some respect," the audience, which included dozens of teachers, gave him a standing ovation.

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