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Mar 3, 2012 1:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bridgehampton Teachers Volunteer To Forgo Salary Increases

Mar 7, 2012 9:38 AM

Bridgehampton School District teachers and support staff this week agreed to forgo any salary increases for the 2012-13 school year in an effort to help the district during troubled financial times.

Members of Bridgehampton Teachers Association, the district’s teachers’ union, as well as the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) agreed to salary freezes for the coming year, with an eye toward cutting costs in a difficult year as school districts struggle to maintain programs and staffing levels while faced with a New York State-imposed 2 percent tax levy cap.

At Wednesday’s board of education meeting, Bridgehampton School Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre announced the news. “Today, an exciting thing happened,” she said. “The unions have reached a decision to support us with no increases this year.”

BTA President Helen Wolfe, Dr. Favre said, informed her that union members agreed, in a show of solidarity, to a hard freeze on salary increases. This year’s decision is not a deferment­­; the increase will not be added on to any future agreements, she added.

Ms. Wolfe said the BTA voted for a hard freeze for the 2012-13 school year to support the district, students and community in the face of the challenge presented by the 2 percent tax levy cap. Teachers also agreed to forgo “step” increases, Ms. Wolfe said. “A hard freeze means nothing changes from this year’s salary, so no step increases. The BTA hopes that the community acknowledges our commitment to the district and our dedication to our students,” she said via email after the vote.

“They opted not to receive any increase this year to help mitigate the financial challenges,” Dr. Favre added. “They locked arms and came together to support us in this first year. It made a huge difference in our numbers.”

The decision to forgo step increases translates into a savings of $92,986 for the district. Added on to other savings in areas such as transportation, $100,000 to be taken from a reserve fund, and an overall 15 percent reduction in costs, the amount needed to close the budget cap is only $42,154, compared to the approximately $383,000 originally expected to be needed to make ends meet and maintain programs in the coming year.

“As far as I am concerned, our Bridgehampton Teachers Association and our CSEA staff have once again confirmed their ongoing, passionate, over-the-top dedication to our students and to the district through this gesture to agree to the freeze,” Dr. Favre said. “It speaks to the strong collaborative nature of our team, and their willingness to put the students before themselves in these tough times. I am proud to be a part of this very unique group of educators, and school support staff. They are amazing.”

At a Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday, Dr. Favre gave a presentation regarding a very preliminary $10.9 million 2012-13 spending plan and how the new state-imposed tax cap, which limits the amount a district can raise through taxes, will affect the district.

The 2-percent figure can be misleading, Dr. Favre noted, because certain expenses aren’t counted toward the total. Exempt from the tax cap are certain items including capital projects, such as a recent window replacement initiative at the school, and retirement contribution increases, she said, meaning the overall tax levy for Bridgehampton actually can rise 4.12 percent. “It’s important that we educate the community,” she said.

Without the tax cap the district would have needed to approve a budget of $11.3 million to maintain existing programs, but with the tax cap limitations, spending will have to be capped at $10.9 million. Even utilizing $100,000 of the district’s reserve fund, officials would have been left with a $285,000 gap, without union support.

Also at the meeting, Bridgehampton School Business Administrator Robert Hauser gave a budget presentation, including discussion on the district’s ongoing window replacement project. Solar paneling, which will be situated on the district’s office, is slated to be installed in approximately six weeks and will result in $250 per month in savings after the project is completed by mid April.

Mr. Hauser also said the district had received one bid for the sale of a minibus, for $150. Because Mr. Hauser said he believes the bus is worth more, the bid will be rejected and the minibus might be offered up at auction on a BOCES affiliated New York State website.

Bridgehampton Principal Jack Pryor also gave an update on students’ activities, including a number of guest speakers who addressed classes on the civil rights movement and the Death March on Bataan.

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Its nice to see that in one school district the employees are cognizant of the burden that taxpayers face. I'm sure these employees have families to support but have decided to share in the belt tightening like the rest of us. These employees should be a model for the rest of the school district employees in surrounding areas. My hat is off to all of you, and I thank you even though I do not live in your school district. Now how about the employees of the East Quogue UFSD? Do you care enough ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 4, 12 7:42 AM
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By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 4, 12 7:42 AM
Agreed- nice beginning. But the real costs are contained in the benefits- pensions- healthcare. Most private companies (like my own) are going to high deductible health plans with HSA's. No more pensions- we have to contribute to a 401k. That will be the real savings for the tax payers now and in the future. Lets see how serious the unions and other east end districts.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Mar 4, 12 8:53 AM
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Am sure the small print in this leaves us all as taxpayers with less to be excited about than the headline suggests. Teachers always say their actions are dictated by the teachers union. One wonders why these teachers are suddenly able to break free. I would guess the freeze is made up in other ways.
By local12 (34), Remsenburg on Mar 5, 12 5:46 PM
Apparently silence is golden in the hamlet of East Quogue with respect to the salary increases for the employees of the East Quogue Elementary School. To all the EQ activists why not in East Quogue?
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 6, 12 7:39 AM
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Have the administrators agreed to a wage reduction too? Are they making a personal commitment to helping out?
By bailey (52), East Hampton on Mar 8, 12 10:18 AM
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Crusader- how about the fact that East Quogue is one of the lowest paid districts in the county. And the board and administration is trying to do this with the teachers in east quogue, mere weeks after they purchased a piece of property that they didn't even need! Why not forgo the property purchase so you can afford to pay your teachers!
By bubby (236), southampton on Mar 13, 12 7:56 PM
If you look at ANY school budget, salaries, health ins, and retirement benefits are 75%+ of the budget. A salary freeze is nothing more than you or I holding up a falling wall of the Hoover dam.
By YEAROUNDER (81), East Hampton on Mar 15, 12 8:38 AM
give credit when it's due.
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Mar 17, 12 8:27 PM