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One-year agreement with GAA set

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Enlarged School District Board of Education on Wednesday approved a one-year agreement with the Gloversville Administrators’ Association by a split vote of 7-2.

The union contract running from July 1 through June 30, 2021 approved by the Board of Education during Wednesday’s special meeting does not include any salary increase for members of the collective bargaining unit. Members of the GAA include the director of health, physical education and athletics, the director of student support services, the assistant director of student support services, the director of elementary curriculum instruction and all administrative personnel except for the superintendent and assistant superintendent.

According to Superintendent David Halloran, the GAA and Board of Education entered contract negotiations earlier this year and had nearly reached an agreement on a three-year contract before the state issued restrictions closing school buildings and non-essential businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus in March.

“We negotiated prior to COVID. We were close to settling a contract that looked quite a bit different,” said Halloran on Thursday. “I can certainly understand the board’s reluctance to sign onto the contract with such an uncertain future.”

With the state projecting a budget shortfall due to expenses related to efforts to contain the coronavirus and losses in revenue from business closures under the state stay at home order, the state budget approved by lawmakers in April keeps state aid to school districts flat at the 2019-20 level while allowing the state to adjust or reduce aid over the course of the year based on actual revenues received by the state.

Any cuts to state aid are to be determined following three “measurement periods” running from April 1 to 30, May 1 to June 30 and July 1 to Dec. 31. Although the first measurement period has passed and the second period has nearly concluded, district officials have yet to receive any word on how state aid will be impacted for the 2020-21 school year.

“We don’t know next year with the state economy what that looks like, so we wanted to make sure we were not doing something that we could have a hard time meeting,” said Halloran of the move to negotiate a short-term contract.

“I think it’s a pretty good compromise,” he added of the finalized agreement.

Although the contract does not carry any salary increases, the school board on Wednesday additionally approved a one-time stipend of $1,000 each to all members of the GAA collective bargaining unit. Halloran noted that the school district had some funds remaining from the 2019-20 budget that covered the stipends that were offered in lieu of salary increases for the coming school year.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it’s something,” said Halloran.

The contract also no longer requires all administrators to attend the monthly Board of Education meetings, instead requiring at least one representative from elementary, secondary and student services to attend each meeting. With four administrators in each group, each staff member is expected to attend 25 percent of the regular meetings. Halloran pointed to this measure as freeing up staff members in the evening to spend more time with their families.

Additionally, the contract allows staff members the option to work from home if schools are closed due to inclement weather. Administrators may still be called to report to campus later in the day at the direction of the superintendent as needed if travel conditions improve.

Halloran pointed to the inclusion of an employee health insurance buy-out incentive as a potential cost saving measure for the district if union members opt out of the benefit program. The contract also includes an early retirement incentive that is available to all GAA members with at least 10 years of service to the district. The incentive would provide a one-time payment of $35,000 to any union member who submits a letter of intent to retire by July 15 with a retirement date of Aug. 1.

Halloran said no staff members have signaled their intent this year to take advantage of the incentive that was included as a possible cost saving measure as the district faces the financial uncertainty of the coming year.

The contract also includes a $25,000 retirement incentive to any eligible union members who submit a letter of intent to retire by Jan. 1, 2021 with a retirement date July 1, 2021. Halloran indicated if any staff members choose to accept the incentive the district would then evaluate options for the impacted position.

“In the overall landscape of things right now, we’re taking everything into consideration,” said Halloran.

The agreement with the GAA and the stipend to union members were approved by a vote of 7-2 as part of the board’s consent agenda. Board of Education President Robert Curtis and board member Kevin Kucel voted against the pair of action items.

“My personal objection was that during the current financial situation we shouldn’t be approving contracts, we’re still waiting for the governor to make up his mind on how much state aid we’re going to lose for coming year,” Curtis explained of his vote on Thursday.

Curtis did not raise any issues over the particular provisions included in the contract or with offering employees a stipend, but said he would have preferred delaying the resumption of negotiations until the district receives word on how much state aid will be received next school year.

“I thought we should have waited to see where we were financially and then I would have no problem with it,” said Curtis. “I thought we should have waited a little longer, but I’m just one person.”

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