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Mayor requests salary concessions

Date: 3/29/2011

March 30, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — To help alleviate employment concerns during a difficult budget cycle, Mayor Richard Cohen has requested that all collective bargaining units in town agree to forgo a raise for fiscal year 2012 (FY12).

The request was made public through a press release on March 23.

In the document, Cohen also agreed to "adjust his salary accordingly" if the bargaining units agree to his proposal.

"My goal is to keep people off unemployment, to keep people employed," he said. "What I've asked, if they would be willing in the unions we have settlement agreements with, that they forgo the 1 percent raise for this fiscal year."

Cohen said the request referred to the agreements with five town unions the Police Association, the Police Supervisors Association, The Administrators, the Clerical Association and the Fire Association which all agreed to accept a no raise under the current budget, a 1 percent raise in FY12 and a 2 percent raise in fiscal year 2013.

Cohen added that these five settlements have not yet been ratified by the City Council and that there are three collective bargaining units with which the town has not yet reached settlement agreements. He noted that, because of ongoing negotiations, he could not discuss the specifics of any potential agreements with these last three groups.

Cohen said his request also extends to the School Department. Though teachers technically didn't receive a raise this fiscal year, by contract there was a $440,000 step increase allotment, which Cohen said the union divided equally among all teachers rather than awarding step raises to only the lowest paid teachers in the district.

"Everybody got $1,063 on the school side from the steps; that averages out to an almost 2 percent increase," Cohen said. He also noted that the majority of the jobs slated for cuts in this budget cycle "are on the school side."

"What I'm asking is that the teachers, those who weren't entitled and the lower paid who gave up the step raises, forgo the 1 percent [this cycle] and not have any layoffs in the school department," he said.

Cohen said whatever the outcome of his request, he will present a balanced budget to the City Council "and then it will be up to them to do what they wish."

"I'm just looking for everyone to share in this," he said. "We know in the homes it's very difficult today and I truly believe we all have to feel a little pain and this would be in the best interest of everyone to maintain services and maintain staffing."

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