ELYRIA — The Elyria Education Association is taking Elyria Schools Superintendent Paul Rigda to task for comments he made about the district’s five-year forecast and how step increases, the longevity pay system of teachers, fit into predictions.
The union filed an unfair labor practice grievance with the State Employee Relations Board and cited a May 30 article published in The Chronicle-Telegram in its complaint. The charge contends Rigda made negative and disparaging comments about the bargaining unit.
“The article presented the teachers in a negative light and generated numerous negative comments about the teachers in the newspaper,” said the complaint filed June 30. “(Rigda’s) actions reflect a total disregard for good faith bargaining and a blatant attempt to interfere with (the union’s) ability to advocate for its members during negotiations. The newspaper article is a form of direct dealing by threatening staff cuts through the media.’’
The article came a few weeks after consultant Ernie Strawser, with Public Finance Resources Inc., laid out the next five years of budgets for Elyria Schools.
In his report, he found expenses soon will outpace district income. As such, a move school officials made in 2011 to freeze steps temporarily could hurt the district if the union pushes for their reinstatement during contract talks, Rigda said.
In May, Rigda said the steps were not included in the five-year forecast. However, a 1.9 percent increase each year for teachers has been factored into the district’s financial future.
On Friday, he declined to comment on the grievance filed by the teacher’s union.
If the district does bring back steps, Rigda has said the district would have to cut expenses and the district would face a $2.7 million deficit by 2017. Such a shortfall could trigger a need for major staff reductions, including layoffs.
The State Employee Relations Board will investigate the claim and render its decision at a later date.
In the meantime, school officials and union leaders will continue to work toward a new deal. The contract expired May 31.