The Lehighton Area Education Association on Friday voted overwhelming against the latest contract offer by Lehighton Area School Board.

After discussing the pros and cons of this latest offer, union members voted 147-12 against the district's proposal.

Last week the negotiations committee for the Lehighton Area Education Association met with members of the Lehighton Area School Board to finalize negotiations on the current contract impasse.

A release from the Lehighton Area Education Association stated:

“Negotiations have been going cooperatively and some progress has been made over the course of the past 10 months.

“Members of the board and the LAEA have come to an agreement on many issues within the contract. Both teams met twice a month from January through May.

“Unfortunately the board did not schedule any negotiations over the summer months and negotiations did not resume until school began. The Superintendent of Schools, Mr. James Kraky, and all building principals received notice that the educators were only going to work contractual hours and not be available after hours until a contract is ratified.

“It is unfortunate that the administration did not help encourage negotiations, so that a contract could have been settled prior to the start of the new year. The current gridlock is on salaries and retirement.

“Last year the district spent $10,188,650 on teachers' salaries during the 2008-09 school year. The Lehighton School District budgeted an additional 4 percent increase into their 2009-10 budget and raised the millage on local property taxes.

“For the first year of the contract, the teachers offered to accept the same total expenditure on salaries from last year at no additional cost to the district, and the district could keep the $407,546 that they raised in their budget for teacher salaries."

Bruce Koch, president of the LAEA, said, “We are not asking for the 4 percent above the $10,188,650; we are only asking for the same amount you spent last year."

The release said, “The district raised taxes to cover the anticipated salary increases for the educational staff. The teacher's union is asking for a 3.5 percent increase in the second year and a 3 percent increase in the third year of the contract.

“The school board is only offering a three-year contract that will expire August 31, 2012. The school board's final offer included a 2.72 percent increase for 2009-2010 and a 2.53 percent increase for the next two years.

“The district's business manager, Michael Malay, and members of the school board, confirmed that the 2009-2010 budget includes the 4 percent increase for salaries based on the $10,188,650."

Kraky had no comment regarding the statement by the Education Association.

He said a 48-hour notice would have to be given before any work stoppage could occur.

He also said the district has plans in place in the event a strike would be called.