FAIR HAVEN TEACHERS AGREE TO PAY FREEZE

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By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Answering the call of Gov. Chris Christie, Fair Haven teachers agreed to a one-year pay freeze on the same day voters hit the booths and approved the borough’s education budget.

The deal was made at 3p Tuesday, said Mayor Mike Halfacre.

Details of the negotiations won’t be available until the contract is ratified, which should be in the next day or two, said Fair Haven Board of Education member Katy Frissora.

“We worked pretty hard over the last 24 hours to get this done,” she said. “We’re really excited about this.”

The teachers’ four-year contract expired last June, Halfacre said, and the two sides had been in negotiations since then.

Halfacre said the teachers will receive incremental experience-based pay increases retroactive to the 2009-10 school year, and will only receive partial increases in the 2011-12 school year. He also said there were “concessions on health insurance” in the contract.

But just as Christie called for last month, teachers’ pay will remain static for 2010-11, a move Halfacre Christie said would mitigate layoffs, program cuts and higher property taxes.

“Governor Christie asked for the teachers to take a pay freeze, and our teachers did,” he said.”For 2010 and 2011, they get nothing. They don’t get a step (increase) and they don’t get a percentage (increase).”

Halfacre said teacher contracts usually have two components: a step increase and a percentage increase. A step increase is similar to longevity pay, and at a certain step is capped. Percentage increases apply to all teachers.

School administrators, who are not in a union as teachers are, voluntarily agreed to a pay freeze last month, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Fair Haven lost $600,000 in state aid for the coming school year, resulting in the elimination of kindergarten aides and other staff, the Press reported.

Voters hit the polls Tuesday night to decide on a $11.9 million spending plan, which is actually a 1.2 percent decrease from the current budget. However, the addition of more students and the loss in state aid negates the reduction in spending.

With Tuesday’s approval, the 2010-11 budget will raise taxes by 4.66 percent, according to the Press, from $11.03 million to $11.55 million.