West Allegheny school directors continue to be criticized for approving a new teacher contract that will cost the district more than $3.7 million over five years.
While one resident backed the board's decision, many of the nearly 40 people at the April 20 meeting said they were unhappy about teacher pay increases. Others have complained about the contract in letters to the editor and on social media exchanges.
School directors in March voted 6-3 to approve an average teacher pay raise of 4.77 percent as part of a contract with the West Allegheny Education Association.
The salary increases aren't expected to affect the current 22-mill tax rate in the $52.7 million preliminary budget, according to the district. With the 22-mill rate, the tax bill on a $100,000 home would remain $2,200 for property owners in Findlay, North Fayette and Oakdale.
Ron Beaumont of Oakdale said the raises should be delayed because residents can't afford to pay for them.
"Do you really, really know what's going on in the economy right now in the real world? It's a crying shame what you people did here with this vote," he told board members.
Linda Listello-Grove of North Fayette thanked the three members who voted against the contract -- Tracy Kosis of Findlay and Ron Pasic and Robert Ostrander, who represent Oakdale.
Lawrence Bolind of Findlay, a former school director whose wife, Anne Bolind, sits on the board, defended the decision.
"Our children's education is of the upmost importance. Board members who voted yes, it was a tough choice you had to make. I think it was the right one," Mr. Bolind said.
Oakdale council President Ron Gamble said the school board should have stood up to the teacher's union to save taxpayers money.
"Postpone this [contract] for a year," Mr. Gamble said. "Do something right."
Earlier this month, Oakdale council passed a resolution criticizing the board for approving the teacher raises in a weak economy and calling for a one-year pay freeze.
School board President Debbie Mirich declined comment beyond an earlier district press release on the contract. She quickly adjourned the meeting when the public comment session developed into a yelling match among several audience members.
Mr. Pasic said in a printed handout that he supports a one-year pay freeze, which would "demonstrate that teachers are committed ... and would let our taxpayers know that we are being respectful to their needs during these challenging economic times."
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org .