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Published: Wednesday, 12/18/2002

Toledo schools reject fact-finder's pay plan

The Toledo Board of Education yesterday voted unanimously to reject a fact-finder's recommendation that teachers get a 1.48 percent pay raise over the next 16 months, while Toledo Federation of Teachers' members approved the proposal.

“At this point, we don't feel we can afford the $3.5 million extra. It would mean layoffs of probably 100 people,” board President Peter Silverman said.

Board Vice President David Welch called voting against the salary increase for teachers “an easy decision.”

Current budget projections show the district will finish the fiscal year in June with a roughly $21 million deficit, said Treasurer Jim Fortlage. Insurance costs have been higher than expected since August, and charter schools are costing the district about $1 million more than projections, he said.

But TFT President Francine Lawrence doubted the accuracy of the financial forecasting.

“Jim Fortlage has been making projections for the last two decades. He has a history of repeatedly projecting deficits,” she said.

The union's roughly 300 substitutes hadn't voted yesterday, but teachers approved the fact-finder's recommendation 2,294 to 50 and paraprofessionals favored it 288 to 37.

“Obviously, the overwhelming acceptance by teachers and paraprofessionals for such a small raise indicates our members were willing to work with the board,” Mrs. Lawrence said. “Management's rejection is a tragic slap in the face.”

The fact-finder, Mitchell Goldberg, an attorney from the State Employment Relations Board, came to Toledo after negotiations broke down between the district administration and the teachers' union over a salary re-opener this fall.

Union officials had asked for a 5.75 percent wage increase for teachers, according to the fact-finder's report. That would be in addition to the nearly 15 percent they are receiving in their three-year pact though that includes a 30-minute longer work day at the elementary schools and junior highs and a 15-minute longer day at the high schools.

The fact-finder recommended a 1.2 percent increase effective Feb. 1 and a 0.28 percent increase effective Aug. 1 for teachers, paraprofessionals, and substitute teachers.

Mr. Goldberg also recommended TFT members receive “a greater wage or salary increase or other increased compensation of whatever kind is granted to [the other two district unions] or other increased compensation.”

Mr. Silverman said the board would seek an independent review of the district's financial forecast, probably by the Ohio Department of Education.

“We want the community to be confident in the decisions of the board,” said Anita Lopez, one of four board members to vote for the review.

Larry Sykes voted against it.

“I'm very confident in what our administration, superintendent, and treasurer have done. I don't think there will be a question from the public,” he said.

In other action last night, the board set goals for Superintendent Eugene Sanders for the next year and agreed to enter into talks for a five-year contract with him. Dr. Sanders is in the final year of a three-year pact with the district.

Also, Partners in Education received an advance payment on its annual district allocation. The nonprofit organization fosters partnerships between businesses and schools, mainly in Toledo, and secures grants for tutoring programs, faculty development, and other educational purposes.

Executive Director Julia Faulkner had asked the district to double its allocation from $25,000 to $50,000 because community donations have declined and grants are earmarked for programs, not operating expenses.

Instead, the board voted to give the group half of next year's allocation now.



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