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Aug 5, 2015 10:26 PM

Controversy stirs after Manchester mayor's veto of union contract for teachers


MANCHESTER - President of the Manchester Education Association Ben Dick says he is packing up his family and moving to Bedford because schools are not a top priority in the Queen City.

Dick was highly disappointed Tuesday, after Mayor Ted Gatsas vetoed a contract with the teacher's union. He says his members have been without a contract for two years.

"This is something that, for the mayor to veto, when 70 percent of the voting aldermen voted for the contract, I think is not only short-sighted, but it is damaging," Dick said. "It's damaging to the city, when you think about what we won't be able to do, what the long-term ramifications could be, and we're already seeing that now, after just a few years of not having a contract for our teachers."

Dick said the biggest hurdles his union and the city have been facing when it comes to negotiations are pay and health benefits. The city wants union workers to pay more for their health care, and employees in the system don't want to lose money, so they are demanding an increase in pay as compensation.

Dick says education is the foundation of a community, and without good educators, problems such as the heroin epidemic will continue to escalate.

He added that the average starting teacher only makes approximately $34,000 a year in Manchester, and has a more challenging job than many of their peers in other Granite State cities and towns.

Gatsas told NH1 News Wednesday that he vetoed the contract because it would create a $785,000 shortfall in the 2017 fiscal year. Even if the city took all of the money for the city side of the budget, and applied it to the schools, Manchester would still have an approximately $300,000 deficit, he said.

"(The contract) didn't leave money so you could have more teachers, reduce the class sizes, or anything like that," Gatsas said. "It went directly to wages."

Gatsas said there were some good things that came out the negotiations. Pay per hour, instead of pay per day, is an example. A health savings account was another positive, Gatsas said.

The mayor says he hopes to sit back down with the negotiating team to figure out how to create a contract that benefits everyone.

Follow Kimberley Haas on Twitter @KHaasNH1.


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