BRIDGEWATER, NJ - With chants calling for an end to the contract dispute, more than 400 members of the Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association rallied outside the Harmon V. Wade Administration Building Tuesday prior to the first scheduled session with a mediator.

“We are showing the board of the resolve of our staff,” said B-REA president Steve Beatty. “It is time to resolve this now.”

The board of education and B-REA have not yet resolved their contract dispute after the previous contract ended in June 2015.

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The two entities have been meeting to discuss a new contract since February 2015. The B-REA recently declared impasse in the negotiations, and the mediator will hold a first session Jan. 13.

The main issue the B-REA says the board of education has been focusing on is taking away high-end health plans due to the Affordable Care Act. Board member Jeffrey Brookner has said the district will incur a tax penalty in excess of $1 million for these Cadillac health insurance plans being offered.

The board's current salary increase proposals account for these Cadillac health insurance plans by decreasing salary increases over the course of three years.

But at this time, that Cadillac tax has been pushed back to 2020.

“The Cadillac tax issue was the main one,” Beatty said. “We are hopeful the board will understand the importance of settling this.”

Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School special education teacher Beth Colucci said the main argument among the two entities had to do with that tax, but it has been resolved.

“Nothing should be stopping us from settling,” she said.

Beatty said at the rally that morale among the staff is currently good and bad.

“Morale is down, but unity is up,” he said. “The staff is unified, educated and engaged.”

Bridgewater-Raritan High School special education teacher Michael Smith said he is disappointed a contract hadn’t been reached yet.

“The staff realizes this is important, and what we’re asking for is fair,” he said. “There is no reason why the board shouldn’t offer a contract.”

“We don’t want to have to be in this situation, but it is nice to see people rally together,” he added.

Bridgewater-Raritan High School English teacher Kristen Vogel said it is time to come to a resolution.

“I am glad a lot of union members came to the rally, it shows how committed we are to resolving this,” she said. “This has gone on a long time, and we want it resolved.”