The Saucon Valley School Board opted not to vote Tuesday on a three-year contract proposal made by the teachers association, thereby extending an impasse in salary negotiations.
The move came in spite of pleas from the Saucon Valley Education Association to move forward with an extension of their previously expired 2012 contract and amidst growing public frustration over the teacher’s ongoing demands.
“They don’t want any change at all. They just want the old expired contract,” said Treasurer Edward Inghrim. “This board is saying this community can’t afford that. We’re far apart.”
The teachers association will now meet with their full membership on Thursday, August 21 to decide on a next course of action, with a potential strike looming before classes resume on Monday, August 25.
“Anything is possible,” said Richard Siminonas of the Education Association when asked whether a strike was forthcoming.
The two groups each made presentations at Tuesday’s board meeting in which they addressed alleged misconceptions about negotiations.
Board member Ralph Muerta said the teachers were not only receiving a 3 percent raise but that with added education incentives and contract wrinkles, it would effectively be a 6-7 percent salary increase for employers.
But following the meeting, chief negotiator, Richard Siminonas, argued that teachers were unable to capitalize on additional bonuses due to a restrictive implementation system.
“We’ve been frozen seven of the last 10 years,” said Siminonas of employers’ ability to seize incentives and bonuses. “The proposal is more than affordable.”
Siminonas also refuted claims that teachers were holding the district hostage and demanding a raise in taxes, saying that their proposal could be achieved without any tax hikes for residents.
Many of those in attendance though remained unconvinced, with several denouncing the actions of the teachers during public comment.
“They’re trying to steal from the taxpayers. These numbers are ridiculous,” said Saucon Valley resident Shawn Sefranek. “If [the teachers’ proposal] goes through, there’s going to be another 'for sale sign' going through.”
“I would like to very much to thank the board for holding on with the taxes,” said another resident.
Saucon Valley officials also countered notions that the district could afford to raise salary due to either extra reserve funds or natural affluence.
“We aren’t a country club district. We are not a district of mansions,” he said. “We are an average district," said board member Ralph Puerta.