DANBURY -- The Common Council will be weighing the cost of raises in the new teachers contract for about 818 certified staff members in the public schools against the ability of residents to pay for them.

They will do so at a meeting Tuesday. The council is using its authority for the first time in anyone's memory to review the teachers contract. It can vote it down, which will likely send it to binding arbitration, or take no action and let the contract stand. The council will meet as a committee of the whole at 7:15 p.m. to learn how the school board arrived at the raise amounts. It is prepared to take action at the special meeting scheduled to follow at 8:30. "We have to weigh it to make sure the taxpayers can afford the increase in the current economic climate,'' council president
Joseph Cavo
said Monday. "We have to be very mindful of what taxpayers can pay. People are losing their jobs. But we totally respect teachers and the incredible work they do." Cavo would not speculate about the outcome of the meeting, but said the teachers contract would not be the only one looked at. "We're going to be scrutinizing all the raises of all the city employees as we go forward." Danbury teachers union president
William Murray has said he welcomes the chance to explain the contract that will run from this July 1 to June 30, 2012. "The Board of Education feels this contract is fair, and we support it," said board chairman Susan Podhajski . "We recognize that Danbury and other municipalities across the county are in dire circumstances, but we hope the Common Council supports this contract." The school board approved the contract in October. It provides an average 3.1 percent general wage increase for everyone, and an additional 1.2 percent step increase for about 40 percent of the staff, based on time served and education credentials. It includes a stipulation that the third-year salary be determined after two and half years, with the expectation that economic conditions will be more favorable. In addition, the employees agreed to some concessions in their medical coverage. Some school leaders believe that putting a contract in place opens the door for negotiating for temporary changes to deal with the extraordinary times, but voting it down could eliminate any good will with the union. The school board voted down the administrators contract in October. It went to binding arbitration, and the arbitration panel supported the administrators' request for a 4.5 percent raise. Mayor
Mark Boughton , a former Danbury High School social studies teacher, said the projected teacher raises could cost as much as $2.5 million next year, and the city can't afford it. The school board has asked for 3 percent more money in its proposed 2009-10 budget. It calls for cutting 27.5 teachers and seven non-certified staff. Boughton said the city is closing in on agreements with six other city unions, including three Teamsters unions, as well as unions that represent the police and fire departments. He said while he could not disclose the settlements that are in progress, the city is asking for wage concessions and changes to the structure of the contract. The mayor said the teachers contract must be negotiated by the Board of Education, but he would be willing to work for the same changes in it. "If we used the same forum with the teachers contract, we'd save a million dollars next year," Boughton said.

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If you go WHO -- Common Council, city director of finance, the mayor, superintendent of schools, schools' director of finance, Danbury Board of Education, representative of the teachers union, the public. WHAT -- Special Common Council meeting to discuss Danbury public school teachers contract WHEN -- Tuesday Common Council Committee meeting as a whole starts at 7:15 p.m. Special Common Council meeting starts at 8:30. WHERE -- Danbury Common Council Chambers, third floor, City Hall, 155 Deer Hill Ave.