Schalmont OKs teacher contract

Changes to save district nearly $400k annually, shrink budget gap

— More than two years of negotiations between the Schalmont Teachers Association and the district have ended, and concessions from teachers will help to close next school year’s budget gap.

The Schalmont Board of Education on Monday, Feb. 13, unanimously voted in favor of approving the new teachers union contract covering a period from July 1, 2009 to June, 30, 2014. The contract includes an annual salary increase of 1.2 percent with a no salary increase during the 2012-13 school year, excluding existing length of service pay hikes.

District officials said the contract will save $390,000 annually compared to existing terms. Superintendent Valerie Kelsey said the district has set aside funds for retroactive pay raises in anticipation of negotiations being completed.

“I think there is an understanding of the difficult fiscal time,” Kelsey said. “I appreciate everyone’s part on the great effort it took to come to an agreement. Both sides obviously had strong convictions about things … but I think the outcome in this case is to benefit the students of Schalmont.”

Most of the district’s savings were achieved through changes in health insurance structure. The teachers union agreed to switch to a less expensive healthcare plan providing similar coverage, Kelsey said. Also, teachers agreed to double their annual contribution rate, from 5 to 10 percent, which is an increase of $300 to $1,200 depending on coverage.

Schalmont Teachers Association President Mary Beth Flatley said the contract is reasonable given the difficult economic climate.

“This is a fair and appropriate contract that showcases teachers’ commitment to savings programs and jobs while recognizing the quality education we provide,” Flatley said in a statement.

Another $48,000 in savings will be realized through not funding the district’s Innovations in the Development of Educational Achievement grant program.

The current school budget is $41.8 million and a “rollover” budget maintaining all programs and services would be around $42.1 million after savings realized through the approved contract. Kelsey said the district estimates the budget gap for the 2012-13 school year is around $325,000 to $345,000.

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