Well, it’s back to the drawing board in search of a new contract with Manchester’s teachers. With one hundred ninety six votes in favor and three hundred ninety one votes against, rank and file members of the Manchester Education Association slapped down the proposed contract negotiated between Mayor Ted Gatsas, their union’s president Ben Dick and the union’s executive board. Hopeful the measure would pass, Gatsas scheduled a special meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for May twenty eighth to adopt the contract in time for the start of the new fiscal year. Looks like they’ll have that night off now. The pact restructured the teacher’s health benefits, causing them to shoulder higher co-pays, deductibles and premium amounts. It also reduced the number of automatic annual pay raises from fourteen averaging five and a half percent, to seven over a fourteen year period which averaged about five percent annually. In addition to the roughly ten percent raise the
teachers would get about every other year, the contract raised the entry level salary and granted annual cost of living adjustments of about one point six percent. In an interview yesterday on Girard at Large, Gatsas said the projected savings in the first year would be two and a half million dollars which he said would be used to beef up the district’s health care reserves. Overall, he said the contract would cost taxpayers more than four million dollars over its four year life. As Dick sent an email in reply to our inquires late last night, we have been unable to ask either him or Gatsas for comment. Two years ago, the teachers shot down a contract extension that made similar modification to their health benefits, though they didn’t go as far as the ones in this contract, and continued to fund their annual five and one half percent step and two point five percent COLA raises. That extension went down by a three to one margin with the opposition of the union’s executive board. So, the two to one beating this four year deal just took with the support of the executive board was an improvement. No doubt budget writers who were looking for those savings to offset budget shortfalls will be disappointed, which may be why this deal went down.
A couple of notable items came out of yesterday’s interview with the mayor. Gatsas said he didn’t believe this year’s budget problems could be solved without breaking through the tax cap. He had, to that point, declined to say that publicly, though he reiterated that if his budget passed and the aldermen let him do what needed to be done, he could manage the budget he proposed and maintain city services. And, while he didn’t actually announce a bid for reelection, he left little doubt that he would seek a fourth term. See, it pays to tune in!
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Efforts to raise money to restore the Hall of Flags in the New Hampshire State House are proceeding nicely. More than sixty six thousand dollars has been raised through the sale of commemorative bottles at New Hampshire liquor stores. There are about fifteen hundred bottles left and they’re going fast. The Hall of Flags is home to a series of war-time flags, including 8 8 Civil War flags, as well as flags from World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War. The flags are displayed in the same large, oak cases they have been in since 1 8 9 9. While the cases themselves are in good condition, they’re not air-tight, so the flags, which are made from mostly silk and cotton, are slowly deteriorating. Efforts to restore and preserve the flags are likely to cost more than a million bucks. We’ve uploaded the details of the efforts, which contain a little history of how the the collection was built with this newscast at Girard at Large dot com.
The Rotary Club of Merrimack is once again organizing Family Day for Merrimack’s 4th of July celebration and they’re inviting your participation. It will be a day of fun, games, entertainment, & food from noon until Nine. In addition to volunteers, the organizers are looking for food vendors, craft vendors, clubs and non-profit organizations to host booths, or other events, business vendors, special vendors, performance acts for stage events (you know, things like dancing, singing, musical instruments, maybe even a Battle of the Bands), family entertainment, demonstrations (like a First Robotics, crafts, Karate and other Martial Arts) and just about anything else could be fun and informative for the whole family! Organizers say the earlier you and/or your organization call to reserve a place, the better priority you will receive. Registration forms can be found at merrimack 4th dot com. We’ve posted their release with all the details at Girard at Large dot com.
Oh, in case you’re wondering where the State House news is today, after Governor Margaret Wood Hassan signed the bill jacking the gas tax by twenty three percent, too many members of the House were unable to buy gas for the drive to Concord, so they canceled this week’s session. Okay, so that isn’t the real reason why there was no session because they get paid for their mileage, but what the heck, it sounded good. The legislature will be back in session next week. Be sure to secure all personal belongings while you still can.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!