MANCHESTER, NH – The Board of Aldermen voted Monday night to override the mayor’s veto and approve a three-year contract for members of the Manchester Education Association.
The 10-3 vote, which was not on the agenda, came after a motion by Alderman Patrick Long, as reported by the Union Leader.
The chamber was packed to capacity, said At-Large School Board member Kathy Staub, who was watching the action from a conference room with the overflow crowd. She was “pleasantly surprised” when Alderman Pat Long started the meeting out by moving that the board reconsider the contract vote.
“It wasn’t on the agenda, which I thought would mean that it wouldn’t come up until new business at the end of the meeting,” said Staub.
She said she was impressed with the three-minute presentation by School Board vice chairman John Avard, who used homemade flash cards as visual aids to underscore the financial benefits of the contract to the city.
“John did a tremendous job,” Staub said. “I’m really pleased that it’s resolved. Our teachers have done a remarkable job despite the fact they’ve had no raises.”
Voting in favor of ratifying the contract were Aldermen Dan O’Neil, Garth Corriveau, Tony Sapienza, Patrick Long, Ron Ludwig, Joyce Craig, Norman Gamache, William Barry, Barbara Shaw and Tony Katsiantonis. Aldermen Joe Kelly Levasseur, Jim Roy, and Bill Shea voted against the measure, and Alderman Keith Hirschmann abstained.
Following the meeting, Gatsas released the following statement on his veto of the contract ratification, which the Board of Aldermen voted to override 11-2 (opposed by Aldermen Shea and Roy, with Hirschmann abstaining):
“It’s clear that it’s an election year.
It’s unfortunate and disappointing that this discussion has become embroiled in election year politics. But, just because it’s an election year doesn’t give me, the Mayor, a free pass to succumb to difficult choices.
Just because there’s an election doesn’t give me, the Mayor, a free pass to make the easy choice – over the right choice.
There’s a word for this, and it’s not leadership.
I have heard from and listened to teachers. I have heard from and listened to parents. I have heard from and listened to the taxpayers.
I see the teachers in the audience this evening and I applaud them for what they do for the students of this city. Tomorrow is the first day of school and I do not question your desire or dedication to teach the students in Manchester and provide them with the best education.
I believe that you are deserving of a raise. I do believe that. However, I have to take all factors into consideration.
In the Manchester School District there are six unions. One union, MESPA, has been out of contract for the same two years as the MEA. The other four have contracts that are expiring at the conclusion of this school year. Just in time for the next budget – another 31% of the district employees will be out of contract.
In the city there are thirteen city unions that are without a long-term contract. The policemen are without a long-term contract. The firefighters are without a long-term contract. The highway workers are without a long-term contract. Right now over 1100 employees on the city-side are frozen in their steps and benefits. Just in time for the next budget the long-term contract needs for 100% of city employees needs to be addressed.
Given these considerations I am left with two questions: The first, how do we afford the contract before us? The second, how do we afford the contract before us, and, everything else?
If the answer is we will find a way – you are not being honest- however you look at the numbers, it can’t be done unless you override the tax cap.
There are 19 unions that are without long-term contracts. So what do we say? Sorry, not this year. That’s not good faith negotiations.
And then, there’s the taxpayers. Manchester voted twice, to limit spending in this city. Is there no consideration?
I understand there’s a backroom conversation going on about getting through the election and then overriding the tax cap in a non-election year. Let’s be honest with everyone – all the employees of the school district, the city and the taxpayers.
I cannot support a contract that I know will require an override of the tax cap or cause unimaginable alternatives.
The city charter does not give authority to the Mayor to present a budget with the presumption of a tax cap override. Instead, as Mayor of this city I will do what I have always done. Take everything I know as it is presented to me and see how each choice, each decision affects the end result and see if there is balance.
As your Mayor I will stand on my principles and make the right choice for the school district, the city – and the taxpayers. There’s no place for politics in this discussion and where anyone is at in the election cycle should never matter either.
Therefore, at this time, I respectfully veto the ratification of the tentative agreement between the Manchester School District and the Manchester Education Association.”
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