Dist. 728 board approves 2-year teachers pact

by Jim Boyle

Elk River Star News


The Elk River Area School Board approved a two-year teachers contract that district officials say will help the district maintain workforce competitiveness and plan for financial challenges.

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 for adding 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.

Greg Hein, the executive director for business services, highlighted cost mitigation and containment strategies featured in the new contract.

He also noted the district and the teachers union will discuss alternative teacher compensation, known as Q-Comp, and review snow and cold weather school closing procedures for teachers among other issues.

One cost containment measure reference by Hein was a move to self-insured and with no increase to the district’s contribution to health insurance. He also noted a step was taken to mitigate employee out-of-pocket expenses for 2014-15.

Superintendent Mark Bezek thanked negotiators, both Rod Barne’s team of negotiators and the Elk River Education Association’s team.

“They have put a lot of time in this over the last year and a half,” Bezek said. “Thanks for getting this put to bed.”

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.

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 a step within the steps to the salary schedule, the district will mitigate future roll-up costs.

With the 2013-2014 salary schedule improving by 1.25 percent, 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 Elk River Education Association agreed to waive $400,000 of the statutory requirement to reserve 2 percent of the basic revenue for staff development in 2014-2015 and 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 a 4.33 percent increase.