Amherst Pelham Education Association (APEA) calls on the Amherst Town Council to support a fair contact for Amherst’s educators. A close examination of the town budget reveals that there is $8 million in “free cash”– unencumbered funds that could be used for unbudgeted expenses. Our call for cost-of-living increases (COLA) would not exceed $1.2 million.
In October 2022, the APEA proposed a 3.25% increase for the current year, and subsequent 4% and 5% increases for teachers and clerical staff. They also proposed a 6% increase for paraeducators for the next three years. This would total an increase of 1.2 million, much less than what the School Committee is claiming APEA has demanded. While the finances of Amherst seem to be thriving, it comes at the expense of its educators and students, and its unionized employees. Over the past six years, the average COLA increase for educators was 1.43%. The average inflation rate for the past 6 years, however, has been 2.8%. The disparity has become most stark, however, since the pandemic, with inflation at 7% in 2021, and the COLA at 0.6% for the same year (see table below).
This has contributed to the reality that our paraeducators do not make a living wage. There has also been a greater burden on employees for medical costs over the last few years. The fiscal health of the Town of Amherst has been subsidized by these kinds of financial burdens on their workers.