Pickerington teachers will receive their first base salary raises since the 2010-11 school year after the approval of a new, two-year contract.

Pickerington teachers will receive their first base salary raises since the 2010-11 school year after the approval of a new, two-year contract.

The Pickerington Board of Education on Aug. 26 unanimously approved a new two-year contract for approximately 690 certified teachers in the Pickerington Local School District.

Per the terms of a contract negotiated between the school board and the Pickerington Education Association, teachers will receive 2.5-percent increases to their base salaries for the 2013-14 school year.

The teachers also negotiated 2.25-percent base salary increases for the 2014-15 school year, and each full-time teacher in the district will receive a one-time $300 stipend in 2014-15 as recognition of their efforts to further professional learning and development they've undergone in recent years to keep pace with changing state education and student-growth standards.

"This new contract is the result of many months of discussion and debate," Pickerington School Board President Cathy Olshefski said in a prepared statement.

"In the end, I believe it achieves many of the goals both parties set forth at the beginning of this process."

Teachers will receive base salary increases after foregoing them as part of their employment contracts with the district for 2011-12 and 2012-13.

At that time, PEA officials said teachers were cognizant of the district's financial constraints after approximately 70 teachers were laid off and not rehired in February 2011.

Olshefski said the new contract acknowledges the teachers' work to comply with new state standards and the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System and implement the new Common Core curriculum, reinstates reimbursements for teachers' professional development expenditures and "recognizes the hard work and dedication of our certificated staff by providing them with a fair salary increase over each of the next two years."

PEA representatives did not comment at Monday night's meeting and calls and an email to PEA President Carla Fultz requesting comment were not returned Tuesday morning.

According to Pickerington Treasurer Ryan Jenkins, the new contract with certified teachers will cost the district approximately $3.01 million over the two years.

Board member Jim Brink said teachers deserved the raises after going two years without base salary increases, and he noted those who received step increases -- negotiated pay bumps based on education and years of experience -- as part of the previous contract typically saw no additional money because of the increased cost of health benefits and higher taxes.

"When you get to steps over the last three years, many of the teachers received no increase in take-home pay," Brink said. "Some people actually saw decreases."

Brink said the increase in costs to the district through the new, two-year contract primarily will be offset after the district received approximately $4 million more in funding from the state than originally was expected.

"When we got the final budget from the state, we're actually seeing over a $4-million increase," Brink said. "The taxpayers are not paying for it in the next two years."

In addition to base salary increases, the new contract provides teachers with $120,500 for professional growth reimbursement, including when they seek master's degrees or further education to qualify them for administrative positions.

Jenkins said the district also negotiated changes to health care premiums for certified teachers.

Under the terms of the two-year contract, district-provided health care premiums cannot increase more than 7.9 percent.

That's down from the 9.5 percent increase teachers are seeing this school year.

By capping the premiums, Jenkins said, teachers could see increases to deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses.

However, under the new terms of the contract, full-time certified teachers who opt out of the district's health care family plan would receive a one-time payment of $3,500 from the district, and individuals who opt out would receive $1,750.

"As a result, we estimate (district) premiums savings in this five-year forecast cycle of between $1 million and $1.5 million," Jenkins said.

Following the new arrangement, Jenkins said the district estimates it will save close to $3 million in health care costs between 2018 and 2022, when the federal "Cadillac tax" goes into effect.

In other action, the board unanimously approved a one-year employment contract for the district's classified employees, which generally consist of school cooks, custodians and other support staff.

Under that contract, classified employees will receive 2.5-percent base salary increases this school year.

According to Jenkins, that contract will cost the district $669,601.