The Hilliard school board approved a three-year contract Dec. 17 with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 310.

The Hilliard school board approved a three-year contract Dec. 17 with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 310.

The new agreement begins Jan. 1. It applies to approximately 477 classified employees, or 28 percent of the district's 1,686 employees.

Employees represented by OAPSE include transportation staff, secretaries, custodians and grounds-maintenance crew members, said district spokeswoman Amanda Morris.

The membership of OAPSE approved the contract Dec. 16.

District officials said the agreement is similar to the three-year contract board members approved Nov. 13 with the Hilliard Education Association, the union representing the district's classified personnel, including about 1,138 teachers.

All OAPSE employees will receive a 2 percent salary increase in each year of the three-year agreement.

Like the HEA contract, the OAPSE contract includes changes in health-care coverage and premiums.

Employees who average less than 30 hours a week will not be eligible to receive health or dental insurance benefits unless the part-time employee is enrolled in board-provided coverage by Dec. 31.

The new OAPSE contract also increases maximum out-of-pocket expenses for employees, increases employees' share of dental-insurance premiums and establishes an employee-paid share of co-insurance. The employees' contributions vary based on the number of hours worked.

Compared to the terms of the former contract, Morris said, increasing deductibles and requiring employees to make new or additional contributions allows the district to avoid more than $1 million in health-care costs during the three-year term of the contract.

Likewise, the new three-year contract with HEA avoided $2 million in health-care costs that would have been incurred if it had been renewed according to the former terms , Morris said.

However, she said, the district still will pay more to provide health insurance in 2014.

"Overall, our health-care costs will still increase next year," Morris said. "There have been significant increases (for health care) every year."

In fiscal year 2013, the district spent $18,399,158 on health insurance, Morris said.

District officials estimate spending $19 million in fiscal year 2014, she said.

Another new facet of the OAPSE contract is that it will prohibit employees from smoking on school property.

In the past, employees on break could smoke in limited, designated areas.

"(The prohibition) was never before part of the contact language," Morris said.

The original three-year contract began Jan. 1, 2008, and ended Dec. 31, 2011, and like the HEA contract, both parties agreed to extensions without renegotiating the entire contract.

"We're very pleased," school board President Andy Teater said Dec. 18. "It's a good contract that is fair to our employees and good for our budget and our taxpayers."