DANBURY -- The Common Council rejected the teachers contract Tuesday night in a historic vote that overrode the Board of Education's agreement with 818 certified staff.

Three hours of tense discussions preceded the vote by 18 council members to reject the contract. They called it too high and blamed the cost for causing other teachers to be laid off.

"We're not passing judgment on the teaching profession,'' council member
Mary Teicholz said. "We're trying to do what is best for everyone involved."

The clock begins immediately for the school board and the union to each choose arbitrators and come up with their last best offers to bring to the table. The council can only reject the contract, not play a role in the arbitration process.

Mayor Mark Boughton
said he would write to both parties Wednesday, asking to help mediate a new contract that would give teachers a raise the city can afford.

Union president William Murray said he expected the vote.

"They knew what they were going to do from the start,'' he said. "I think they are worried about the other contracts in the city being settled. We're prepared for arbitration."

The city is close to finishing negotiations with six other city unions.

The teachers' contract would cost the Board of Education about $1.8 million of the $3 million increase requested in its 2009-10 spending plan.

The budget proposal also calls for cutting 27.5 teachers and seven non-certified staff.

Murray said the agreement provides a general wage increase and a step increase that is adjusted for experience and education credentials. The raises range from 2.3 and 4. 2 percent.