A three-year contract that would increase base pay for teachers but save the district money on health plans in the New Albany-Plain School District has been reached between the district's school board and the teachers union.

The agreement, which affects about 318 teachers in the district, would include a 1 percent increase in base salary each year over three years.

"By working together, we reached an agreement that provides financial stability for the district while also recognizing the contributions and dedication of our teachers," John McClelland, president of the New Albany-Plain Board of Education, said in a statement.

In the same statement, Plain Local Education Association President Joseph Armpriester said, "PLEA believes this tentative agreement demonstrates our mutual commitment to attracting and retaining quality educators for our students."

With the new contract, annual pay levels would rise 1 percent to $42,875 for an entry-level teacher for the 2017-18 school year.

That base would then increase annually by 1 percent in each of the next two school years, reaching $43,737 in the final year of the contract during the 2019-20 school year.

The base-pay increase would be the district's first in three years, school district treasurer and CFO Becky Jenkins said.

Superintendent Michael Sawyers added that he believes the base increase is the lowest, most conservative deal struck by any Franklin County school district recently.

That is expected to help keep the district competitive, Sawyers said, helping it to attract the best first-time teachers.

"It's collaboration with the association to find a cost-effective solution that benefits our students and our community," he said. "We are still competitive, but we've worked very hard to actually find a fiscally responsible solution that benefits not just our teachers, in recognizing the significant contribution they have on a daily basis, but also the benefits to our community at large."

The contract also includes an annual stipend of $1,500 for teachers if the district achieves certain achievement targets.

This year, the district set a goal to go from the top 11 percent among public schools in Ohio to the top 9 percent. Sawyers said he anticipates the goal next year will be for the district to ascend to the top 8 percent.

As part of the new contract, the district would pay 80 percent of health-care premiums for teachers, down from 85 percent in the current contract.

"It's the rising cost of health care and really finding an economical solution for Joe Taxpayer," Sawyers said. "It's an expectation within our community that we continue to try to find options to utilize our budget differently to try to save us going back to the over-reliance on Joe Taxpayer for increased property tax. So, we are trying to change that, and the teachers helped try to make that happen."

The union voted to ratify the contract June 2, said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway. He said 89 percent of PLEA members who voted supported the contract.

The New Albany-Plain school board approved the contract at its June 7 board meeting. The contract will be effective from July 1 to June 30, 2020.

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