NEW CANAAN — After a lengthy discussion, the Town Council decided against making a formal decision on the proposed teachers’ union contract.

Town Council members voted 8-3 against making a decision on the contract at their meeting on Dec. 13, with many council members stating they wanted more time to review.

Council Chairman John Engel and members Christa Kenin and Tom Butterworth voted to not reject the contract.

“I believe in this point of the process this is the best we can get,” Kenin said at the meeting. “I think that our teachers are the ultimate asset to this town.”

A Connecticut statute states a decision has to be made within 30 days of the contract being given to a legislative body or it will automatically into effect. However, council members were given just 24 hours before their meeting to review the contract, which led to hesitation to approve.

Engel said he was comfortable voting to not reject the contract because some of his concerns were addressed — one being how the decision affects the ongoing discussion for later school start times. However, he was told the two decisions would not be connected.

“I had the benefit of a private meeting where I got to ask questions,” Engel said. “Nobody else got that opportunity. So I get it.”

Council member Mike Mauro asked if the proposed contract was the best possible outcome for the town and the teachers.

“This contract is worth millions of dollars,” he added. “There’s very little input from the town bodies on this contract.”

Mauro said he wanted town residents to feel confident that the contract had been fully vetted. With issues surrounding property values, he wanted to know the town could afford the contract.

Tom Mooney, who represented the Board of Education, said negotiations took place over several months. Initially the board and the teachers’ union were unable to reach a decision through negotiations.

“We didn’t simply shake hands and call it a day,” Mooney said. “But we were able to reach an agreement with the assistance of a mediator.”

As it stands, the council will essentially have to reject or approve the contract. If the council were to reject the, contract it would go into arbitration, which according to Mooney could not play out favorably.

“The rejected cost would be around $60,000 in terms of fees to litigate the case,” he said. “The risk with the outcome of arbitration is the last best offers would fall.”

New Canaan Education Association President Vivian Birdsall said the town bodies have always been “careful stewards” of the town.

“I understood the council wanted to be thoughtful in their review of the contract,” Birdsall said in an email. “I really would not have expected less. This contract is fair for both parties.”

The council plans to have a special meeting on Jan. 9 to further discuss and make a decision on the proposed contract.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com, 203-842-2568