A sign is seen in the car parked in York in this York Weekly file photo. Credit: Deborah McDermott | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — A new teacher contract appears ready for ratification as early as Dec. 5, as both sides have reached tentative agreement on its terms. But the teacher union president said members of their negotiation team felt there was also a third, unseen party — the York Budget Committee — at the table calling the shots.

York Teachers Association President William True said he is relieved that the bargaining process appears to be over, following 24 negotiating sessions over more than a year. After a marathon mediation session two weeks ago, the mediator reached accord with the chief negotiators last week.

“But members of the negotiating team and I believe there was another ‘invisible’ entity, the York Budget Committee, who had told the School Committee that they needed to reduce costs in the school budget,” said True.

[Teacher morale ‘very low’ as contract impasse drags on, union leader says]

“There is a feeling among some members of the association that the process and ultimately the outcome could be interpreted as a lack of value these two committees have for the teachers of York, and the work that they do for their students,” he said.

The teachers had been working without a new contract since Aug. 31. Since that time, they have appeared en masse at many committee meetings, and stood outside the polling place at York High School on Election Day carrying signs that reminded the public of the situation.

“I’m not able to comment at this time,” School Committee Chair Brenda Alexander said. “What I would need to do is review the ratified contract in order to respond to his statement.”

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Budget Committee chair Nan Graves was not immediately available for comment.

True said the settlement “represents all the School Committee is going to offer at this time and, of course, having salaries be retroactive to the start of this teachers’ work year was and is very important to the bargaining unit.”

School Superintendent Lou Goscinksi said the tentative agreement was reached on Nov. 14. The next step will be ratification of the teachers, who are expected to meet Nov. 27. True said he believes the teachers “will have a variety of mixed emotions over the terms of the successor contract.”

Presuming that the teachers ratify the contract, the School Committee is expected to follow suit at its Dec. 5 meeting.

“I congratulate both sides,” said Goscinski. “This has been a long haul but, in the end, there was compromise. I believe both parties can live with the results of their hard work.”