May 21 10:45 PM:
After a more than 3 hour meeting, the Manchester School Board adjourned after voting to send a letter to the NH Retirement System asking whether or not a provision in the contract was legal.
At issue is a provision in the extension that would pay teachers an additional $13,000 if they retire by the end of June. Currently, the teacher’s contract provides a $7,000 payout on retirement. In the contract extension before the board, the retiring teacher would not only pay their share of the retirement costs on that additional $13,000 payout, but also the city’s.
Ward 9 School Board member Art Beaudry, a former trustee of the NH Retirement System and vocal opponent of the contract extension, believes that provision is illegal under RSA 100-A and moved that the board solicit a formal written opinion from the retirement system.
Girard at Large has learned that both Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and Superintendent Tom Brennan were aware of this potential legal stumbling block and that the school district’s attorney was unable to get an answer from the retirement system on Thursday or Friday.
UPDATE NOTE: Since publication, Mayor Ted Gatsas has denied knowing of the legal questions raised prior to the special meeting of the school board. Gatsas said he would not have let the contract move forward with an unanswered question like that.
When asked about whether or not he know of this legal glitch, Manchester Education Association President Ben Dick stated emphatically that he “would never have entered into the tentative agreement or scheduled a vote by the membership” had he known of it. Asked about whether or not the pending vote would proceed, Dick was uncertain. “I’ll know tomorrow,” he said, noting that he was hoping for a letter from the NH Retirement System that would clear the issue up.
Gatsas and Brennan both said that the district is “moving forward,” suggesting that there was a consensus of the school board in favor of the contract. Gatsas accused Beaudry of engaging in “stall tactics” in an attempt to derail an extension he’s publicly said he would not vote for.
Beaudry denied the accusation, stating he’s trying to protect the city and the employees from legal liabilities arising from a potentially illegal contract provision. He said he was “trying to save jobs,” though it was unclear how this action would do that.
The retirement incentive is a key to the union’s package and fundamental to their efforts to ensure that all union members who’ve received layoff notices are recalled by the district.
One participant, who did not want to be identified, stated that the fix to this issue is actually “pretty easy.” Suggesting that all the city would have to do is pay it’s share of the retirement cost, which is 11% of the $13,000 incentive, or $1,430 per retiree, and the problem goes away. The contract extension sets a goal of 50 retirements resulting from this agreement, which would cost the city approximately $71,500, and amount that is dwarfed by the anticipated $4.5 million in savings.
Stay tuned to Girard at Large for details as they unfold.