Despite receiving a majority vote, the Cheshire Town Council on Tuesday failed to gain the votes necessary to approve a new four-year contract with the Cheshire teachers’ union. The decision won't have a major impact, however, as the agreement will still take effect without the panel’s blessing.
The council voted 4-3 in favor of the pact, but the measure failed to get the five votes it needed to pass. Council member Patti Flynn-Harris was absent and James Sima abstained because his daughter is a Cheshire teacher.
Cheshire Town Manager Michael Milone said Tuesday's vote was the same as taking no action, meaning the contract will automatically take effect 30 days after it was filed, going into place on Monday, Jan. 14.
Milone said in order to stop the contract, the council must pass a resolution specifically to reject the agreement. Such a move would have also required five "yes" votes, he said.
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Council members David Schrumm and Thomas Ruocco voted against the contract, along with council President Tim Slocum. Objections ranged from the size of the raises to the practices of awarding salary increases and making layoff decisions based on seniority.
Schrumm said since the state is working to establish a new merit-based teacher evaluation system, he would have liked to see pay linked to teacher performance in the later years of the contract.
"Instead, it will be at least 2018 before this can happen," he said.
The new contract gives town teachers raises of 8.93 percent over four years. Wages will go up 1 percent in the first year, 2.69 percent in each of the second and third years, and 2.55 percent in the fourth year.
Teachers, meanwhile, agreed to add 30 minutes to their work day once a week and will pay a larger cost share for health insurance. Teachers’ contribution will rise from 5.5 percent to 9 percent by the end of the contract.
Even council members who voted in favor of the contract did so reluctantly but said the alternative – going to arbitration – could be worse for the town.
"I don’t want to spend another $40,000 to $50,000 to go to arbitration and face a potential outcome that is worse," said Democratic council member Michael Ecke.
"We can’t afford to send it to arbitration because there are good parts of this contract," council member Sylvia Nichols agreed. "If we send it to arbitration we can lose even bigger."
The Cheshire Board of Education approved the contract with the Education Association of Cheshire back in October, but the document was not filed until Dec. 14 due to edits in the contract's language.
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