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Refusal of union wage freeze could mean 70 layoffs for Rome School District

By PAT BAILEY

ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) - As the New York State Budget hangs in limbo, employees at school districts around New York, including Rome, are wondering about their future.

A union member in the Rome district who spoke to NEWSChannel 2 on the condition of anonymity, says that as many as 20 teachers and 50 teacher aides could lose their jobs next year if the union does not accept a wage freeze.

The employee says the rank and file were briefed on the situation last week. The school district is facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit, and Superintendent Jeff Simons wants the wage freeze to help close the gap, the employee stated.

New York State schools are still waiting to see how much aid will come to districts, a number not known until the state budget is passed.

Mary Beth Recchio, President of the Rome Teachers Association, says that last year, the union conceded a portion of their scheduled yearly raise, and when they did they made a promise to the rank and file they would not ask again during the current contract that runs out in 2013.

Recchio has already told the superintendent the teachers will not accept the wage freeze for next year.

The decision to say "no" was tough, said Recchio, because she knows that about 20 teachers won't be back next year.

"I think they know I am there for them," Recchio said. "I think they know the union is there for them, and we will do whatever we can to fight for their jobs. I am not abandoning them."

President of the Teachers Assistants union, Karen Sauer, says they have informed the superintendent they will not accept a wage freeze, and it's for the same reason as the teachers union.

Not accepting the wage freeze means about 50 TAs will be out of a job in 2011, said Sauer.

"Even if wages are froze, it won't make a difference," Sauer said. "Cuts will come no matter what. We get hit every time. The people who make the least are always hit."

Sauer says the average teacher's assistant makes $12,000 year.

Superintendent Jeff Simons did not return calls to NEWSChannel 2 on Tuesday.

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