Radio talk show host Rich Girard, a former assistant to former Manchester Mayor Raymond J. Wieczorek, former Alderman at Large and candidate for mayor offered a suggestion to resolve the apparent impasse that arose over the contract extension agreed to by Mayor Ted Gatsas, Superintendent Tom Brennan and Manchester Education Association President Ben Dick.
The legal question involves whether or not the city’s teachers may pay both the city and employee share of the retirement benefit costs on the $13,000 incentive added to encourage senior staff to retire. Currently, teachers receive a $7,000 check upon retirement. Therefore the extension would nearly triple the parting gift to retiring teachers.
Because the matter requires a decision from the NH Retirement System, which is not likely to be forthcoming in time for today’s scheduled vote of the teacher’s union on the pact, Girard has suggested MEA President Bend Dick ask the mayor to provide a separate agreement stating that if the NH Retirement System says the employees may not pay both the employee and employer share of the retirement cost for the incentive, then the city will agree to pay its share of the cost.
Numbers obtained by Girard at Large reveal that the city would be liable to pay $71,500 to the state retirement system if 50 teachers retired and $143,000 if 100 teachers took advantage of the offer. Given that the contract saves the city nearly $4.5 million, Girard believes it is a wise investment.
It is necessary to have such a signed document in hand for Dick to allow the vote to go forward. If the agreement is, in any way, altered, then it must go back through the union’s executive board for referral to the membership. That may cause delays that jeopardize the opportunity both parties have to encourage the number of teachers needed to recall all laid off union members.
Because both Gatsas and Dick assert they were unaware of the legal defect, Girard believes this matter could be easily resolved in good faith. This approach not only provides the union president with a guarantee he needs to assuage concerns of the union’s executive board and membership, thus allowing the critical vote to go forward, it also maintains the needed timeline to maximize the opportunity it provides for cost savings through retirements.