The Brick Township Board of Education on Thursday night approved a four-year contract with its teachers union, the Brick Township Education Association, that includes a total 12.9 percent salary increase, however officials acknowledged financial troubles will continue in the district.
The contract, approved unanimously, provides BTEA members with salary increases of 3.3 percent for the 2021-24 school years and 3 percent for the 2024-25 school year year.
Board President Stephanie Wohlrab called the pact a “fiscally responsible contract” despite concerns over the financial effects of the lingering coronavirus pandemic as well as additional rounds of state funding cuts that are due for the Brick district.
“The best thing we can do is to have stability,” Wohlrab said, responding to a resident who asked why a four-year contract was negotiated over a shorter term agreement. “Having that fourth year offers stability … this is just another piece in moving the district forward.”
In an unfortunate likelihood, however, some staff members will never receive those raises. Superintendent Thomas Farrell said the state will cut Brick’s school funding by an additional $5.2 million, on top of the $8.8 million that has already been cut over the last three years.
“This means job cuts,” he said, without delving into details.
Farrell said in response to the cuts, a result of an agreement between state Sen. Steven Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy, Brick has closed and repurposed Herbertsville Elementary School, shed more than 150 jobs and moved to self-insurance for employee health benefits packages.
“We have exhausted all mechanisms and appeal to the state for help,” he said.
Officials said Brick should be held up as an example of financial responsibility rather than targeted for cuts.
Brick spends $15,101 per pupil under the state’s comparative cost model, the 18th-lowest out of more than 100 districts in its size and socioeconomic bracket, said Business Administrator James Edwards.
“It is something I’m not very proud of,” admitted Farrell, who said the district should be spending more to adequately educate students, but cannot due to the funding cuts and mandated 2-percent tax increases for seven years which will still leave the district short.