BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The contract clash between Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) and the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) continues. A third-party fact finder released a new report from a multi-month investigation, which aimed to help guide negotiations and ultimately lead to an agreement.

It seems things are still in the same place. The BTF wants to reject the report, which widely agrees with terms proposed by the district. Union president Phil Rumore calls the report one-sided and says it does not support the teachers’ interests.

“They just gave the district everything they wanted and they gave us nothing. The teachers are going to be very angry when they read this,” Rumore said.

Buffalo teachers have been working without a new contract since 2019. The union and district still cannot agree on several key issues. BPS requested an independent mediator resolve the rift after several stalled negotiations.

Robert Reden, an arbitrator from Buffalo, mediated this process and issued a 22-page report on Monday detailing several recommendations should negotiations continue. Three main disagreeing points include teacher pay, health insurance and school start times.

The report says teachers need a raise and recommends eight percent increase upon ratification, six percent on July 1, 2023, four percent on July 1, 2024, and three percent on July 1, 2025 with an eight percent signing bonus.

“Eight percent would be enough for one year if the also had the raises from the past that the teachers deserve and also have more raises in the future. Also what we need to do is knock out some of the steps,” Rumore said.

Reden did not recommend eliminating salary steps. Buffalo teachers have 27 steps to reach maximum pay, while Rumore says other districts have less, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost pay for Buffalo Teachers.

Teachers currently pay a flat rate for healthcare and retain their insurance when they retire. The fact finder recommends teachers should pay 10 percent of their pay for insurance and retirees can keep their healthcare until they are Medicare eligible.

“If there has to be an increase depending on what the other increases are, we are willing to take a look at increasing it, but not at a percentage,” Rumore added.

School bussing has been another problem this year during a nationwide bus driver shortage. The mediator agreed with the District, saying there should be staggered start times to ease the bus crisis. The union strongly opposes this.

“Until we solve the issue of having sufficient bus drivers, it’s not going to go away, it can only get worse,” Rumore continued.

The next steps include a meeting between the union and district to discuss the report. Both sides will then present new contract proposals, according to Rumore. He says there needs to be a new deal this year.

“There better be one. I think that there can be and there will be,” Rumore concluded.

Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams, General Counsel Nate Kuzma and others spoke on Wednesday morning.

Prior to this, Buffalo Schools declined to comment on camera to News 4. The District released the following statement with the fact finding document on Tuesday afternoon:

“The Buffalo Public Schools have maintained throughout the impasse with the Buffalo Teachers Federation that it is a critical priority of ours to reach a fair and competitive contract with our respected teachers because they are vitally important to the work needed to take our school district to the next level. That is why on June 23, 2022, the District requested from the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) the assistance of a neutral fact-finder to offer unbiased recommendations to the parties for the final resolution of the impasse.

After a lengthy, evidence and data driven process before Fact-Finder Robert J. Reden, Esq., he issued his Report and Recommendations to both parties on Monday, January 30, 2023. The full 22-page Report with the fact-finder’s recommendations is enclosed for your review. This Report and Recommendations represents the conclusion of the fact-finding process, and the District extends its thanks and gratitude to PERB and our neutral fact-finder for its effort, deliberation, and recommendations on the issues presented by the parties.

The fact-finder’s reasoned and thorough analysis of the issues confirms and validates the District’s stated position that it has consistently offered a fair package to our teachers making it amongst the most competitive in the region and one which would allow the District to recruit and retain the best teachers for our students. Finally, the report confirms the unaffordability of the BTF’s financial proposals and reiterates the District’s inability to pay for the BTF’s salary demands.

The District will be presenting this to the Board of Education for its consideration and possible future action. We are hopeful that these recommendations form the “blueprint” for a settlement in the immediate future. Given the length of the impasse, it is our hope that the BTF views this report with the same expectation.”

Buffalo Schools

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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.