Teachers approve pact with increases, changes to salary
by Jim Boyle
ELK RIVER STAR NEWS
The Elk River Area School Board was to vote on a tentative two-year teachers contract June 9 that will provide both increases and changes to the teachers salary schedule.
Teachers in the Elk River Education Association approved the two-year pact June 4.
“Teachers are pleased a settlement was reached prior to the end of the school year and that they can come back in the fall fully focused on their students,” said union president Bill Hjertstedt.
The salary schedule will be improved by 1.25 percent the first year of the contract and 1.5 percent the second year. There is also an agreement in the tentative deal that the district sought to add a step to the salary schedule. The teachers union also secured in negotiations boosts to the salary schedule for those that reach the 14th step or higher on the salary schedule.
Modified interest-based negotiations started May 28, 2013. There were 17 bargaining sessions, and on Nov. 22 the two sides took their talks to the Bureau of Mediation Services. Six mediation sessions, however, did not produce a contract.
The district and the union decided to meet again without a mediator and reached a tentative settlement on May 21.
“Reaching a tentative agreement always involves a little give and take,” said Rodney Barnes, the executive director of labor relations for the school district. “The tentative agreement represents the result of a collaborative effort between the School District and the Elk River Education Association to reach a settlement that is mutually acceptable to both parties. Ultimately, it came down to reaching agreement on a permanent restructuring of the 2014-2015 salary schedule.”
An additional step was added to the 2014-15 salary schedule, and the top pay Step 18 will be $80,494 for 2014-2015. By adding an 18th step to the salary schedule, the district will mitigate future roll-up costs, Barnes said.
The school district improved the 2013-2014 salary schedule by a 1.25 percent increase; in exchange, the Elk River Education Association agreed to waive 100 percent of the statutory requirement to reserve 2 percent of the basic revenue for staff development in 2013-2014. The cost of those improvements to 2013-2014 salary schedule is $1.68 million which amounts to a 3.7 percent increase. Year 2 improvements to the salary schedule include a 1.5 percent increase. In addition the school district agreed to increase the longevity steps (14 through 17) by $300 per year and longevity step 18-plus by $700 per year; in exchange, the EREA agreed to waive $400,000 of the statutory requirement to reserve 2 percent of the basic revenue for staff development in 2014-2015 and the EREA agreed to add an additional step to the salary schedule (increase from 17 steps to 18 steps) to help mitigate future roll-up costs of the salary schedule.
The cost of those improvements is $2.04 million which amounts to 4.33 percent increase.
The salary of a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no more was $36,410 for 2012-2013.
If ratified on Monday, Year 1 of settlement package calls for a first-year teacher on Step of 1 on the salary schedule to earn a base salary of $36,865 for 2013-2014 and $37,418 for 2014-2015.
The salary of the most senior teacher (Step 17) who’s maxed out on school with a master’s degree plus 60 or more credits before the settlement was $77,579 for the 2012-2013 school year.
This base salary grows to $78,444 for 2013-2014. The following year includes the 18th step mentioned earlier.
Roll-up costs for the first year of the salary schedule are $47.01 million, a $1.68 million, or 3.7 percent, increase (2013-2014); the roll-up costs for the second year of the salary schedule are $49.05 million, a $2.04 million, or 4.33 percent, increase.
There were no contract changes to benefit contribution amounts for 2013-2014, although health insurance premiums increased 5.7 percent during 2013-2014 school year, Barnes noted.
The school district agreed to an increase in the current yearly school district match for 403(b) plan. It will increase from $1,500 per year to $1,700 per year in the second year of the contract; the current lifetime maximum school district match for 403(b) plan will increase from $24,000 lifetime maximum to $27,400 lifetime maximum (2014-2015); and health insurance premiums will increase 4.5 percent (2014-2015) – the school district will provide a premium holiday of $33 per month for single health insurance coverage (2014-2015 only) and $68.22 per month for family health insurance (2014-2015 only).
The increased cost in benefits for 2014-2015 is $1.23 million (this includes, among other things, a mandatory increase in TRA from 7 percent to 7.5 and the premium holiday in health insurance described above).
The costs for benefits (including TRA and FICA costs) is $17.58 million, a $409,776, or 2.39 percent, increase for 2013-2014. This includes a mandatory increase in TRA from 6.5 percent to 7.0 percent; the costs for benefits (including TRA and FICA costs) is $18.81 million, a $1.23 million, or 6.98 percent, increase for 2014-2015; this includes, among other things, a mandatory increase in TRA from 7 percent to 7.5 percent and a premium holiday in health insurance.
Barnes said the district administration feels the tentative agreement represents a mutually acceptable balance between recognizing and rewarding the great work of district teachers and being fiscally responsible.