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Residents tell Moon board: Don't let teachers rule spending

Several residents who attended the Moon Area School Board meeting last night urged the district to take a fiscally conservative approach to negotiations with striking teachers.

The 297 teachers' walkout began yesterday, prompting officials to cancel classes. Teachers, who have been working under the terms of a contract that expired June 30, planned to stage picket lines today.

"Residents either aren't working or are taking pay cuts," said Bryan Morrow of Moon, adding that he "pays four times more" in health insurance premiums than district teachers do.

Teachers in Moon pay an average of 4.1 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums. On Saturday, they rejected an offer to extend their current contract for a year. It would have resulted in an average 2.88 percent pay increase and an increase to 5 percent in their contributions toward health care.

Public employees in the state contribute an average of 12.9 percent toward the cost of their health insurance, according to an annual survey by Cowden Associates Inc., a Downtown employee benefits consulting firm.

Workers in the private sector in the state pay an average of 24.5 percent of the cost of their medical coverage.

Morrow urged the board not to approve a contract with teachers that exceeds three years. "It's time for teachers to give just a little bit back to the community," he said.

Morrow's comments elicited applause from most of the 35 people who attended the meeting.

Moon Education Association members and district officials met for four hours yesterday, and negotiations are scheduled to continue today.

"It appears progress is being made," said Butch Santicola, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

However, the district's solicitor did not view the meeting with teachers as a bargaining session.

"It wasn't a true negotiation session. It was more looking at the numbers," said Jack Cambest. The district's negotiating team updated school board members on the talks prior to their meeting.

School board President Mark Scappe said the e-mails and telephone calls that he has received from residents were "overwhelmingly in support" of the district taking an economically prudent approach in negotiations.

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