PORTSMOUTH – City Council has unanimously approved a new two-year contract for the Portsmouth Association of Teachers which includes general salary increases and two cost of living adjustments (COLA).
The contract, which runs from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2024, includes a 4% salary increase for teachers in the first year, as well as a 2.5% COLA, according to a copy of the contract and comments. of City Manager Karen Connard.
The second year of the contract sets a floor for COLAs at 3% and also includes “annual increases to district training and extracurricular allowances,” Conard said at this week’s city council meeting.
Tom Closson, the city’s labor attorney, said the contract was structured the way it was because of “the rate of inflation that we are currently facing.” He added that the school department wanted to “ensure salaries remain competitive during a very difficult time.”
“We decided to go with a two-year agreement, which is shorter than what we would normally have asked for, in recognition of the fact that even though economic conditions are volatile at the moment, we cannot really predict where they are going to go in the future,” Closson told the city council.
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The contract as negotiated allows the city to weather rising inflation rates and then bring the parties together again in two years, he said.
Inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.1% in June, the US Department of Labor announced on Wednesday.
Mayor calls wage increases a ‘good thing’
Mayor Deaglan McEachern said the council’s decision to approve the new teacher’s contract represented “an investment in the people who invest their time in our children.”
He pointed to the inflation rate of more than 9% and said the board “needs to do the right thing by our teachers, who are experiencing the stress of inflation themselves.”
“I would say we’re doing the best we can for the taxpayer under conditions that make it harder to attract and retain our teachers,” he said Thursday. “We also provide the municipal services that people expect from us.”
McEachern also highlighted “the enormous amount we’ve asked of our teachers during COVID” and said “it’s important that they feel valued.”
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What this means for Portsmouth taxpayers
The contract is expected to add $3 million over two years to the city’s budget over the teachers’ last contract, according to McEachern.
However, there are no plans to change the tax rate of $15.30 per $1,000, the city previously estimated for this year. Indeed, contingency money for the teachers’ contract was included in the municipal budget of $131,774,911 for fiscal year 2023 approved by City Council in June.
The council’s vote to approve the budget will result in a tax rate increase of 27 cents per $1,000 of property assessment or 1.78%, Conard previously said. The owner of a home with a median estimated value of $478,050 in Portsmouth will see their tax bill rise by a total of $189 for the year or $15.82 per month, Conard said.
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