The Hopatcong High School support staff contracts that have been held up for over two years due to unresolved negotiations about scheduled raises may see an agreement in the next month, District Superintendent Dr. Charles Maranzano said.
The support staff, which includes the aides, custodians and cafeteria workers, went back and forth with the board at Monday night's BOE meeing, trying to work to resolve the ongoing issue, Maranzano said.
The aides, which are in a different bargaining unit other than the adminstration, secretaries, principals, and teachers, have argued that they should receive more than the 1.95 percent pay raise. The custodians and cafeteria workers have agreed to the pay raise, but their contract is held up as well because they're under the same bargaining unit as the aides.
All other school workers in the different units have agreed to the scheduled pay raise, except for the support staff, which makes up about 90 employees, Maranzano said.
John Ropars, a field representative for the NJEA, which bargains on behalf of Hopatcong staff, said the aides have said they were promised a 2.4 percent increase earlier the negotation process, according to the New Jersey Herald.
Ropars said the aides are low paid in comparison to other districts, and will only settle for the 2.4 increase because that's what they were orginally offered, the report said.
Maranzano said the board wanted to keep the raises under the two percent cap, and that "these aren't the economic times to make leaps in base pay and overall pay."
"It comes down what can we give the unit," he said. "Given the fact that there are 90 of them, we have to hold the line on how we distribute the money."
Some of the aides expressed concern on Monday, saying that they didn't feel valued in the school because of their pay, Maranzano said. Board members commended the support staff and said they are valued and respected in the school, but this is a reflection on the economical times and what they're able to provide, he said.
The next step to resolve the contract issue is for an arbitrator to look at both sides and present a written report. Maranzano said he expects the report to be done either this week or next week.
"We're waiting now to see what an impartial third party says about the reasonableness of our offer," he said.
Maranzano said he hopes for an agreement to be reached by January.
The teachers recently resolved their contract dispute about health care contributions. Until last week, their 1.95 pay raise was withheld since September, but now they will receive the difference in their paychecks.