Teachers-union pay raise draws ULP charge

The Budget Committee is requesting injunctive relief barring the Farmington (NH) School District from holding a vote on a proposed article that would appropriate $683,896 in raises for teachers, arguing that the article was not discussed, per state regulations, at the committee's final public hearing.

Both District officials and the Budget Committee have been to Strafford Superior Court to discuss the matter. According to Budget Committee Member Joe Pitre, the school district submitted the petition article asking for the raises to the committee the day after the deadline for discussion.

Pitre said RSA 32:5, II, mandates all articles dealing with appropriations be discussed at a public hearing before the deliberative session to give voters the chance to discuss the articles and hear the committee's opinions and whether its members would recommend such articles. Because the Budget Committee's hearing was held on Jan. 9 and the district did not get the petition article to the committee until Jan. 10, the committee was unable to have discussion on the matter.

Ben King, an attorney representing the Budget Committee, said the school district has violated RSA 32:5, II.

King said committee members feel voters should have been able to hear their opinion on the article and discuss it at the public hearing.

On Thursday, Feb. 7, the Budget Committee and the school district had their first court hearing on the issue. The Budget Committee, King said, had hoped to obtain a temporary restraining order to prevent the school district from discussing the article at the Feb. 9 deliberative session.

Judge Peter Fauver denied the petition for the temporary restraining order because he felt there would not be any lasting effects if the public could discuss the article at the deliberative session, King said.

Superintendent Michelle Langa said the School Board has done nothing wrong.

"The courts are very concerned with voters' rights," she said. "There really has to be a preponderance of evidence for them to make the ruling for an injunction."

Langa said she agreed that the petition article was not submitted to the Budget Committee in time for their meeting.

"The School Board did not get the article until the 10th. It was submitted to the (school) clerk on the 8th, but she had to verify that all the signatures were from registered voters. She didn't submit it to the board until the 10th."

According to Langa, the district will be making the argument of an unfair labor practice because district officials believe that although the petition was submitted to committee past the deadline, it was only because the school clerk had to verify signatures, which is required under state law.

"We will be bringing up the fact that this is an unfair labor practice after looking into the issue with the National Labor Relations Board," Langa said.

Both parties are to appear in court on Tuesday, Feb. 26 for a one-hour evidentiary hearing and can submit further pleadings until Feb. 20.


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