Thursday, January 8, 2009

Interesting New Hampshire Teachers and Unions are asked to Take Pay Cuts.

At last years Town Meeting I predicted the down turn in the economy and encouraged residents to reject the budget. It appears that other towns did not foresee the problems that I had because two towns are asking their unions or teachers unions to take pay cuts. The following stories appear in the Valley News.


NEWS: Kearsarge Teachers Asked to Cut 7.5% Raise
Teachers in Kearsarge Regional School District are scheduled to receive a 7.5 percent raise this year under a three-year contract aimed at making the district more competitive. But money is tight, and the municipal budget committee wants teachers to share the burden.

Hartford Budget Set To Rise 2.3%
Town Tells Unions: Cut Raises or Face Layoffs
By John Woodrow Cox
Valley News Staff Writer
Hartford -- As many as five employees could be laid off under the Selectboard's proposed budget if the town and unions can't agree to eliminate scheduled raises or identify other cost-cutting measures.

After a budget workshop and executive session talks that lasted until almost 11 Tuesday night, Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said yesterday that the Selectboard had settled on a budget that would increase by 2.38 percent, or about $287,000, over last year's budget.

That means, Rieseberg said, the tax rate would rise 2.35 cents per $100 in assessed value, or, for someone owning a $200,000 house, the annual payment would increase by about $47.

The Selectboard will finalize its budget at tonight's 6 p.m. meeting at the Hartford Municipal Building.

Assuming the Selectboard sticks with its Tuesday night plan, Rieseberg said, the budget would exclude the funds meant for the scheduled 2.25 percent raises for the town's 107 employees, 52 of them unionized. Those raises are on top of an estimated 3.58 percent annual cost-of-living salary hike.

If Rieseberg and union heads can reach a solution, one employee or perhaps none would be laid off, he said. If not, he said, more layoffs will be necessary. “That one or none,” he said, “is based on the presumption that they give up that (increase) or an equivalent amount.”

The major financial challenge the Selectboard has faced is a 70 percent increase -- more than $600,000 -- in town employee's health care rates over this year and in 2010.

Also, the state has told Hartford officials not to expect $65,000 and possibly $130,000 in highway aid for the last two quarters of this fiscal year.

Hartford could lose another $260,000 in funding if that state trend continues into the next fiscal year, Rieseberg said, and if the Selectboard decides to lay funds away to account for that potential loss, it could further hike up the tax rate, chop programs or force more lay offs.

“We need to present a responsible budget to the town voters,” Selectboard member Chuck Wooster said at the meeting, “and they can do with it what they will.”

Wooster proposed and the Selectboard supported giving up its $6,000 annual stipend, and even though the number is nominal compared to a budget that will likely top $12.3 million, members said it would send the right message to the town.

“It's in our interest as a board to say this is serious,” Wooster said.

Also, driven by residents' requests that the Selectboard better publicize the annual town report printed before Town Meeting in March, the Selectboard discussed mailing more than 5,000 postcards to the public, explaining that people could see the document on Hartford's Web site or pick it up at public offices.

Rieseberg estimated that dispersing the postcards would cost $1,700. The town used to mail the report but stopped the $20,000-a-year practice three years ago.

One issue that could further increase the budget, though members didn't know by how much, would be a possible mid-year election of two new Selectboard members if and when the Legislature OKs Hartford's revised town charter, approved by residents on Nov. 4.

The charter stipulates a Selectboard comprising of seven members, and the current board has five. Under the new law, the town might have to hold a special election to fill the two new seats.

“My feeling is that you should have the elections,” Chairwoman Gayle Ottmann said, “as soon as you can put it together.”

In a Valley News story earlier this week, Alan Beebe, president of the firefighters union, denied Rieseberg's claim that the union refused to renegotiate its scheduled raise, but an e-mail from Beebe to Rieseberg dated Dec. 9 said “we are not willing to make any further mid-term changes to the Agreement.”

Beebe said he did not intend to lie and just made a mistake. “It must have been a mishap on my part,” Beebe said. “I'd have to take blame for that.”

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