The Westerville Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to accept an offer of a two-year contract extension from the union representing support-staff employees.

The Westerville Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to accept an offer of a two-year contract extension from the union representing support-staff employees.

The proposal from the Westerville Educational Support Staff Association includes a two-year pay freeze.

Those provisions and a concession on health-care costs would take effect only if the district's three other unions also take on more of their health-care costs.

The two-year agreement takes effect in July. It does not increase base pay or step raises, the bumps based on length of employment.

District officials said union members came to them with the proposal.

Administrators do not yet know how much the deal would save the district, spokesman Greg Viebranz said on Monday, Jan. 30.

The district now covers half of the union members' deductibles, which are $1,200 under a single plan and $2,400 families. Beginning in January 2013, under the tentative deal, those with the single option would pay $900 and families $1,800.

In the second year of the extension, the district would contribute nothing.

District officials are hoping to convince voters to approve a 6.9-mill, five-year levy on the March 6 ballot. If approved, it is expected to raise $16.5 million per year and would cost property owners an additional $210 for every $100,000 of assessed property valuation.

Following voter rejection of a combined 4.06-mill property tax and a 0.5-mill income-tax request in November, the school board has held a series of meetings to discuss ways to cut $23 million from the budget and to present a list of cuts that would be restored if the March levy is successful.

Board members agreed unanimously in December to send a "notice to negotiate" to the unions representing the district's employees.

Superintendent Dan Good has indicated that some budget cuts will be necessary, even if the March levy is approved.

"I'm pleased that we're making forward progress with our labor unions," board president Kevin Hoffman said. "We definitely appreciate them coming to the table with something significant."

Separate from the contract extension, support-staff union members agreed in December to return $175 each, or $25,000 total, to the district to ease cuts.

Administrators and their support-staff members also agreed in December to help cover their health-insurance costs - the district previously paid the entire cost - and to pay the same rate as teachers and other district support-staff members.

ThisWeek staff writer Gary Seman Jr. contributed to this story.