Bianchi eyes surplus funds to fund Pittsfield teachers' pay raises


PITTSFIELD -- Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi wants to tap city surplus funds to cover the $256,389 in salary increases for the first year of the city teachers' newly ratified three-year contract.

Bianchi will formally ask the City Council this week to approve using money from Pittsfield's certified free cash account to fund the 0.75 percent across-the-board pay hikes, retroactive to Aug. 25. The United Educators of Pittsfield had been working under the previous agreement, which expired Aug. 24.

The council meets Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

In previous fiscal years, the city would set aside an estimated amount of money in anticipation of pay raises, if a contract was likely to be approved after the new municipal budget too effect July 1.

For fiscal 2013, Bianchi and city school officials opted for a wait-and-see approach to funding teacher pay hikes.

"It had been discussed to hold off until the negotiations were over," the mayor said. "Waiting until we had the numbers is a more transparent approach to budgeting."

Bianchi also broached the idea -- agreed to by the UEP and School Committee -- that the salary increases be directly tied to the amount of state aid Pittsfield Public Schools receive each year during the length of the contract.

"Any increase should recognize the risk of Chapter 70 funds," he said.

Depending on the availability of Chapter 70 money, the UEP pay raise for the second year of the contract ranges from 0.5 percent to 1 percent. In year three, from 0.75 percent to 1.25 percent.

The contract also includes the adoption of the state's new teacher evaluation system that the UEP and School Committee expects will more accurately review teacher performance.

The three-year agreement the UEP and School Committee finalized on Oct. 24 ended a string of one-year deals dating back to the 2008-2009 school year following sometimes contentious negotiations.

"After more than four years, this is a great first step to get back on track," said School Committee Chairman, Alfred E. "Alf" Barbalunga.

The series of one-year deals were primarily a result of the city's volatile budget situation and the inability of both parties to iron out differences over non-money issues.

Barbalunga and union leaders credit a new negotiating strategy -- called interest-based bargaining -- in helping negotiators reach a three-year accord that expires Aug. 24, 2015

Employed at the start of the contract talks in March, interest-based, or collaborative, bargaining begins with a philosophical approach to reaching a new contract.

The UEP and school board had previously relied on the traditional collective bargaining process. That method involves union and management having pre-determined positions on issues such as wages and benefits.

"The UEP negotiations team believes that creating a fair, long-term contract that results in improvements for our students and staff is possible, especially when both sides are invested in resolving problems," said UEP President Gail Yates.

While collective bargaining resulted in the four, one-year contracts, settlements for the school years of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 came after months of contentious talks. In both cases, a state mediator was called in to resolve the labor dispute and teachers enacted a process known as "work to rule" in order to spur a tentative agreement.

Under work to rule, union members strictly follow the terms of the current contract, which may mean not providing extra help to students or work on school activities beyond what is contractually required.

To reach Dick Lindsay:,
or (413) 496-6233.

Details, details ...

n Under a newly ratified three-year contract, The 560-member United Educators of Pittsfield will receive a 0.75 percent across-the-board salary increase retroactive to Aug. 25.

n The pay hike for year two will range from 0.5 percent to 1 percent, 0.75 percent to 1.25 percent in year three. The percentage pay raise will be determined by the amount of state aid city schools receive in fiscal 2014 and 2105.

n The contract includes adopting the state's new teacher evaluation process .

n UEP and Pittsfield School Committee have also agreed to form a joint labor-management committee to address unresolved issues.


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