Bloomfield Board of Ed. And Bloomfield Educ. Assoc., PERC No. 2011-55, Docket No. CO-2010-509 (February 3, 2011).

PERC granted the Board’s request for reconsideration of the Commission Designee to grant interim relief. In short, the Commission refused to require the Board to immediately pay the cost of increment upon the expiration of a one-year contract.The facts are as follows. Bloomfield and the Teacher’s Union had a one-year agreement expiring on June 30, 2010. The Board advised the Union during negotiations that it wanted a wage freeze for the 2010/2011 school year and that it would not be paying the cost of increment. The Union filed an unfair labor practice and sought interim relief. The Commission Designee granted the Union’s request for interim relief, but stayed implementation of it so the Board could seek reconsideration from the full Commission.

The full Commission granted reconsideration and denied the interim relief request. The Commission found that the hardship to the Board by paying the increments outweighs the harm to the Union/employees. Further, PERC held that the interests of the public would be harmed if the interim relief were granted.

In denying the requested interim relief sought (i.e. not ordering the Board to pay the increment), the Commission noted that the district was dealing with a significant loss of state aid and was seeking a wage freeze during negotiations for the 2010/2011 school year. The Commission reasoned that “should the successor contract reflect the wage freeze sought by the Board, the amount of the increments paid ($735,506) cannot be a factor worked out between the parties through the regular negotiations process. Under the tenure law, the increments are irretrievable once paid, so the Board will have no opportunity to recoup the money.”

The Commission specifically rejected the Union’s argument that the teacher’s salary could “be ‘red-circled’ as a recoupment option because the Board still currently suffers the harm of having to pay the money.” (Note that case was sent to the Director of Unfair Practices for further proceedings on the underlying UP charge.)

Bottom line – Depending upon the unique circumstances of each case, the Board might not be required to pay the cost of increment at the expiration of a one or two-year contract. This is particularly important in the current environment, where many districts are seeking a wage freeze or a settlement below the cost of increment. Here is the link to the case if you want to read it.