There’s a great deal of passion amongst all parties when it comes to contract negotiations no matter what the circumstances. I understand it, I share it and I would never dismiss any opinion – I would hope for the same consideration.
Any Mayor is tasked with putting together a budget that meets the criteria of the tax cap. It is spelled out very clearly in the Charter and it is the job the voters elected me to do. Given all the factors to be considered between the needs of the city and the district putting together a budget is challenging, but never impossible.
It is the responsibility of the Mayor to present a fiscally responsible budget year after year. It is the responsibility of the Mayor to be a good steward of the taxpayers dollars. It is the responsibility of the Mayor to not obligate taxpayers, and other boards, to a future of recovering from reckless spending. This is the commitment I have made to the taxpayers of Manchester, one that I do not take lightly and one that I will never ignore – to do so would be irresponsible.
For these very reasons the tentative agreement between the district and the Manchester Education Association was not a contract I could support. The financial implications of that agreement would have made our number one priority, which is reducing class sizes, impossible. In fact the opposite would have occurred – we would have been unable to fill any vacancies that we realized due to retirements, add any new teachers to our classrooms and in each of the next two years we would be looking at class sizes far beyond the state minimum standards across all levels of education.
To look at any multi-year agreement that affects our students and the taxpayers in a vacuum is ridiculous. You must consider the implications and possible outcomes for the lifetime of the contract. In this case in FY2017 and in FY2018 there was a significant shortfall because the increases in salaries far outweighed the savings in benefits – the city was upside down. In this case the Mayor is left with two possible solutions: reduce the workforce or assume an override of the tax cap. Either choice is irresponsible and unacceptable.
What is the responsible choice? Veto the current contract, get back to the table and begin to negotiate a contract that is fair to the teachers, fair to the students and fair to the taxpayers. That is exactly what I am willing to do and I hope that the other parties will agree.
As for the political posturing that has taken place over the course of the past week I would leave you with this. From members of the Board of School Committee, to Aldermen, to teachers, to my friends and to the public when they stop, call, e-mail or message me to discuss the veto they always begin with the statement, “I can’t believe that you did that, it’s an election year.” That is true, it is an election year and when it comes to my principles and making the right choice for our students and the taxpayers where I’m at in the election cycle will never matter. What is more bothersome is that others have chosen to use scare tactics and capitalize on a responsible decision simply because they didn’t expect it.
Mayor Ted Gatsas
Mayor Ted Gatsas also serves as Chairman of the Board of School Committee. He is running for reelection in the September primary election.