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TPS reaches tentative pacts to pare shortfall

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Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, said the union and TPS had reached a tentative agreement.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Just a week before Toledo Public Schools must have a budget that addresses a projected $39 million deficit, the administration has reached tentative agreements with employee unions to help balance the budget.

"The contract settlement involves concessions, so it's not something a union president looks forward to presenting. But we will recommend acceptance of the agreement," Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, said Wednesday.

The district's 2,160 teachers, 330 paraprofessionals, and 330 substitute teachers are to vote Saturday, while 1,037 members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees are to vote today. AFSCME represents bus drivers, food service workers, secretaries, skilled trades employees, and custodians.

Without discussing specifics, TPS Superintendent John Foley said the pacts carry three types of concessions - salary, health care, and job reductions. The labor concessions and other budget cuts are expected to add up to $39 million and effectively balance the budget, he said.

"I can tell you that $39 million is very difficult to do, and it makes reductions that I think everyone would rather not have to discuss, but we've worked collaboratively and tried to be cooperative and tried to put together the best program we could," Mr. Foley said.

"I'm sure the people being cut won't think it's fair," he added.

"Time will tell, but we did the best we could given the circumstances and the large deficit amount. Thirty-nine million is more than 10 percent of our general fund budget."

Don Yates, president of the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel, said the district's 300 principals, counselors, and other nonteaching professionals ratified the tentative agreement "overwhelmingly" Monday.

While the three TPS unions had agreed earlier this spring to 1 percent pay cuts and adjustments to health-care benefits, Mr. Yates said the pact approved this week makes deeper cuts in jobs.

"We lost more positions," he said. "That just means that we have more people displaced and some that may or may not have a job in September."

He said the cuts "will have a direct impact" on TPS services

"It's important for folks to realize next year will not be business as usual," Mr. Yates said. "I know that sounds cliche right now. It won't be so cliche in September."

He said his members were willing to accept concessions because they recognize there "has to be some giveback from our membership, quite frankly, to show good faith, that we're willing to sacrifice. We've said that all along. We've also indicated the board needs to step up and do their part and they have in a very timely fashion done that - I'm speaking specifically of [closing] Libbey High School. The community needs to step up too, and they have not."

On May 4, TPS voters rejected a 0.75 percent income tax on earned income that was expected to raise $18.1 million a year.

In the weeks after the election, the board learned the projected deficit for next school year was $9 million higher than the original $30 million estimate. In a 3-2 vote May 25, the board reversed its earlier decision to keep Libbey open, a move expected to save about $1.3 million.

Mr. Foley said that if the remaining unions ratify the tentative agreements, the board could act on them at a special meeting Tuesday.

"We are required to have a balanced budget by June 30 and obviously we're taking this to the last minute," Mr. Foley said. "It's very important for us to have a balanced budget and if we don't, there are repercussions for the district, including having to either take unilateral cuts ... or asking for state advice and support on the next steps, so we're hopeful that we'll have this done."

On Saturday, teachers are to vote at 10 a.m. at Stranahan Theater; paraprofessionals are to vote at 2 p.m. at Byrnedale Middle School, and substitute teachers are to vote at 4 p.m. at the Toledo Federation of Teachers' office.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.

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