Lehigh Valley

Easton teachers union chief on reaching deal with district: 'This has been a very wild ride'

District, teachers agree to contract that fills $6 million budget gap

Easton teachers union chief: This has been a very wild ride

EASTON, Pa. - After months of back-and-forth, the Easton Area School District and its teachers said they've landed on a contract they all agree on, but it comes at a higher cost to taxpayers.

"It appears that we've cleared the first of many hurdles in our race to return to financial and instruction health here in Easton," said John Reinhart, the district's superintendent, at a news conference Friday morning.

The Easton Area Education Association has signed off on a deal that fills a $6 million budget gap for the district.

"This has been a very wild ride the last few months," shared Jena Brodhead, the union's president. "And there's been a lot of conversations and discussions about priorities."

Putting students and public education first, teachers have agreed to a two-year proposal that includes a salary freeze and increased medical contributions, along with no furloughs or cuts to programs through 2016.

"The board will pull $1.25 million from the fund balance over two years to help offset the costs with the deficit," added Frank Pintabone, the school board's president.

Even with all that, at least 29 positions will be eliminated next year. Officials told 69 News, right now, 24 will come from retirements and five through resignations.  Because of that, officials said class sizes will increase.

Also, taxpayers will see a four percent tax hike the first year and a 2.7 percent increase in taxes year two of the deal.

"That's what was needed to balance the budget, to keep all positions and to maintain a quality education for our students," Pintabone said.

The district is still looking for other ways to reduce debt and hopefully avoid a situation like this in the future.  The Easton Area School Board is set to vote on the deal next week.

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