Largely because of $1.2 million in salary increases and $1.6 million in increased health insurance costs, .
Monday night, the board took a step toward fixing that problem. The nine-member board unanimously approved a three-year contract with the teachers union starting the next school year, with salary increases in the contract averaging 1.91 percent per year and cuts to the teacher’s health insurance plan.
“I just wanted to thank the teachers' union for what they agreed to on the health insurance,” board member Jody Nazarchyk said. “And I hope the other town unions follow suit, it would really help a lot. I really think you put the children first.”
The contract will increase the budget roughly $100,000 in the next fiscal year, Superintendent Jerome Belair said. To put that in perspective, a 4.25 salary increase to teachers and other union raises coupled with health insurance increases in this current fiscal year increased the budget $2.8 million.
“There are wage increases but there are significant health care cost savings,” Belair said. “Significant.”
The contract begins on July 1, 2012, and ends June 30, 2015. Salaries increase 1.75 percent in the first year for teachers, and then 2 percent the next two years, according to the contract.
Meanwhile, the health insurance plan will change. Teachers will pay a higher rate of the cost share for health insurance, a voluntary health care savings account will be introduced and co-pays will be increased, among other measures, according to a press release by the school district.
Additionally, sick leave payouts and retirement incentives have been reduced, according to the release.
The new health insurance plan will save the district $213,500 in the first year, Belair said. In this year’s budget, health care costs increased $1.6 million, a “major motivator” to address the insurance plan, Board of Education Chairman Donald Blevins said.
The key to getting the contract passed was the administration and the union working together, Belair said. Overall, 16 teachers were part of the negotiating team for the union, while the district had board members Blevins, Sheri Cote and John Tagnlianetti, Belair, Assistant Superintendent Craig Powers, School Business Manager Ronald Melnik and Board of Finance representative J.W. “Bill” Sheehan, among others.
“We worked with a group of people who understood the economic climate,” Belair said. “We tried to create a really good dialog. It was important for the board to understand the teachers’ perspective, and it was important for the teachers to understand the board’s perspective.”
The contract settlement was reached on Sept. 19, outside of the formal mediation process and eliminating the “costly and time-consuming” arbitration process, according to the release. All district teachers voted and approved the contract on Friday.
What Happens Now
The contract is still a tentative agreement. The Representative Town Meeting has the option to vote down the contract within 30 days, Blevins said.
The RTM does not have to vote on the contract, he said. If it doesn't, after 30 days the contract becomes official, he said.
“We had a lot of input (about) the general financial situation of the town and made every effort to reach an agreement that would be acceptable to the (RTM) and the board of finance,” Blevins said. “So I have every confidence there will be no impediments to it whatsoever.”
Teachers Union President Martha Shoemaker would not comment after the meeting, saying the agreement was still tentative. Shoemaker said she would talk to the media once the contract becomes official.
The salary structure for the teachers has not yet been determined. But the contract permits a 1.75 percent increase to the salary line next year, including all step increases. The teachers will decide on the salary structure, which will then go to the Board of Education for approval, Belair said.
For in-network office visits, teachers currently pay $20. In 2012-13 and 2013-14, it will be $25, then 2014-15 it will be $30.
For emergency care visits without being admitted, teachers currently pay $50. In 2012-13 it will increase to $75, and then 2013-14 and 2014-15 it will increase to $100.
Teachers currently pay $10 for generic drugs, $20 for a listed brand name and $30 for a non-listed brand name. In the new contract, teachers will actually pay less ($5) for generic drugs and more for listed and non-listed brand name drugs, in an effort to encourage teachers to use generic drugs.
Sick Leave Buyout
In the current contract, teachers would be paid for up to 45 days of unused sick time if they leave the school system after 10 years of service.
In the new contract, teachers hired before Sept. 1, 2004 will still have that benefit. Teachers hired between Sept. 1, 2004 and June 30, 2012 will be paid for up to 25 days of unused sick time when they leave the school district after at least 10 years. And teachers hired on or after July 1, 2012 will no longer receive any sick time buyouts.