Pickerington teachers will pay more for insurance and will get no base salary increases for two years under terms of a new contract that is expected to save the Pickerington Local School District more than $6.25 million.

Pickerington teachers will pay more for insurance and will get no base salary increases for two years under terms of a new contract that is expected to save the Pickerington Local School District more than $6.25 million.

The Pickerington Board of Education on June 28 unanimously approved a new, two-year collective bargaining agreement with the Pickerington Education Association, the union representing teachers.

The new contract will extend through the end of the 2012-13 school year and will provide no raises to the teachers' base salaries for the next two school years.

Teachers also will receive no automatic pay bumps otherwise known as "step increases" based on their education and years of service, in the first year of the contract, and their employee health-care contributions will increase for the first time in 14 years, from 10 percent to 15 percent.

The new contract means the district's teachers will forego base salary increases for three consecutive years.

"It's been a very difficult year two years, actually with all the economic challenges facing the district," said Carla Fultz, president of the Pickerington Education Association. "Our salaries are going backwards and obviously, as is with everybody in the community, our costs of living are going up.

"However, we've always worked in collaboration with the district to solve problems," she said. "At the end of the day, we have to get our district on solid financial footing and we have to do what's best for our students."

Fultz said she hopes voters will see the sacrifices the district's teachers have made.

"I sincerely hope the community will support the district's efforts and support the (Aug. 2) levy," she said. "We just cannot lose any more teachers."

Under the new agreement, new supplemental salary schedules were established for all athletics coaches and extracurricular activities advisers, which district officials said would save $1.18 million over the next two school years.

Teachers also agreed to a suspension of tuition reimbursements, which the district said would save $241,000.

"I think it's important to our teachers and our school district," board President Lisa Reade said. "This is unprecedented and we appreciate the collaborations."

The new health-care agreement is projected to save more than $3.16 million. Monthly premium costs for teachers on family plans will go from $75 in 2010-11 to $213 in the coming school year. Those on a single insurance plan will pay more than $93 a month, as compared to $15 a month in 2010-11.

Fultz said the PEA is concerned the new contract may hamper the district's ability to attract and retain quality teachers, but the "facts" regarding the district's financial constraints are "undisputed." She said she hopes passage of the August levy will translate into job stability for PLSD teachers.

Among the cuts and salary freezes, Fultz said one victory for the union was maintaining negotiated class sizes throughout the district. Under the agreement, class sizes essentially will remain capped at 30 students per class at the high school level, 28 at the junior high level and 26 at the elementary level.

Also on Tuesday, the board unanimously approved rehiring 14 teachers who were among the 82 whose jobs were eliminated in January.

Those rehired, which included elementary teachers, Spanish teachers at the junior high and high school level and high school science and math teachers, were brought back at new positions and lower salaries.

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