Teachers and certified staff in the Big Walnut Local School District will receive a total of 3 percent in base salary raises over the life of a new two-year contract, while concessions made on health-care benefits will save the district some money.
The contract between the district and the Big Walnut Education Association has been approved by both sides, District Treasurer Felicia Drummey said Wednesday, Sept. 26.
The agreement is retroactive to July 1 and expires June 30, 2014.
Teachers will receive 1.5 percent raises each year, along with longevity pay steps.
Currently, starting teachers with no experience and a bachelor's degree earn $34,546 a year. The top scale for teachers with 26 years of experience and a master's degree plus 30 credit hours is $81,527 annually.
The 3,000-student district has 176 teachers and certified staff.
Drummey estimated the cost of the contract to the district will be about $455,000 over the two years -- less then half of what it would have been without the concessions.
Teachers agreed to a new medical plan that results in employees paying toward their deductibles and co-insurance.
Deductibles for individuals move from $0 to $200 and deductibles for families from $0 to $400. The total out-of-pocket cost for employees moves from $0 to $800 a year for individuals and from $0 to $1,600 for families.
"The board of education is very pleased with the agreement that was reached between it and the teachers' association," board President Pamula Lillie said in a statement. "This agreement considers our commitment to our staff and the short-term and long-term fiscal health of the district."
Also in a statement, Superintendent Steve Mazzi said the new agreement is fair to all sides.
"We are very fortunate that we have been able to maintain a high-quality education (in the district) despite decreases in (state) funding, unfunded mandates and difficult economic times," he said.
After several levy failures and having to make cuts that included laying off staff, voters approved an emergency five-year, 7.5-mill levy in 2010 that has helped to stabilize the district financially.
Drummey said Sept. 26 that one of the reasons a two-year agreement was negotiated is because a shorter contract allows the district to be more flexible to the current economic conditions.
The previous three-year contract was extended by a year in 2011 and expired June 30 of this year.
Drummey said in a district news release that the district has "worked diligently with our associations to illustrate that a change in the insurance plan will result in a lower premium payment (to the district), help stabilize the annual budget and allow employees to receive an increase in their income."
Teachers showed up in force at the Sept. 10 school board meeting and passed out fliers during the Sept. 7 Big Walnut football game, stating they were dissatisfied with the progress of negotiations with the school district.
Another union representing about 40 support staff, including secretaries, remains in negotiations with the district for a new contract.
The union representing bus drivers, mechanics and maintenance workers and the one representing food-service workers reached new contracts earlier this year.