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Plainview-Old Bethpage teachers accept wage freeze

Plainview, a hamlet in the Town of Oyster

Plainview, a hamlet in the Town of Oyster Bay, began as a farming community and was a major supplier of cucumbers for Heinz and its pickle factories on Long Island. (March 23, 2012) Credit: Amy Onorato

Teachers in the Plainview-Old Bethpage school district have ratified a contract that includes a four-year salary freeze aimed at helping stem projected budget shortfalls, school officials said Thursday.

"Our teachers recognized the sacrifice they had to make in order to preserve the integrity of our instructional program, and this is really a sacrifice," said district Superintendent Lorna Lewis, who is taking a pay freeze next year.

The 2011-15 contract, overwhelmingly approved by teachers Wednesday, stipulates no contractual raises in any of the four years and step increases in the first, second and fourth year, but not the third.

The Plainview-Old Bethpage district, with more than 500 teachers and other professional staff, and nearly 5,000 students, stands to lose more than $1 million in state aid next year. The district also faces a $3 million increase in pension costs.

Even with the contractual savings, the budget will still be about $1 million short and further cuts may be necessary, Lewis said.

Voters approved a $137,263,959 school spending plan in May that included a 2.49 percent tax levy increase.

Considered a high tax district, Plainview-Old Bethpage stands to lose more in state aid this year than other districts, Lewis said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a state aid plan earlier this year that would cut about $50 million in "high tax" aid, including $38 million on Long Island, while increasing other forms of assistance. The governor contends the shift would make distribution more equitable statewide.

"We took a bigger bite than the average district," Lewis said. "We are hopeful the state aid will come back and legislators will be working for Long Island. The loss in high tax aid has really, really hurt our district."

Schools also operate under a statewide cap on local property taxes, that limits annual increases to 2 percent. The cap exempts certain school expenses, such as approved construction projects and unusually big employee pension cost increases.

The president of the Plainview-Old Bethpage teacher's union did not return a call seeking a comment Thursday.

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