BG enters union contract PDF Print E-mail
Written by MARIE THOMAS BAIRD Sentinel Education Editor   
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 11:18
Bowling Green's Board of Education and its teachers' union have come to a one-year agreement that freezes all salaries and increases union members' insurance share.
The board voted to approve the agreement at a special meeting Tuesday.
Bowling Green Education Association members voted last Wednesday.
Superintendent Ann McVey said negotiations were done with "a very cordial, can do positive attitude."
The union realized the district cannot do business as usual with a foreseen $4.7 million budget deficit at the end of the 2014-15 school year, she said.
The last contract with the BGEA, approved in 2011, offered a base salary freeze for two years but allowed step increases based on years of service and education advancement. That contract was good through Aug. 31 of this year.
The new contract will run July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.
The new deal freezes all salaries, and eliminates step increases, for the next year.
Supplemental salaries also will be frozen.
A one-year contract was necessary because the district couldn't certify its budget beyond next year, particularly with the failures on the last two ballot requests.
Teachers will get paid "exactly what they got paid this year," said district Treasurer Rhonda Melchi.
The district will save about $210,000 by not offering step increases, she said.
"I think given the agreement, it's a recognition by teachers the district has some financial difficulties right now," said Jeff Nichols, BGEA president.
According to Nichols and Melchi, who was a member of the board's negotiating team, 147 of 197 union members voted on the contract. Of those, 67.3 percent voted in favor, 30.6 percent were opposed, and 2.1 percent abstained.
"We new that based upon the district ability to certify rises, we thought a one year agreement would work" until the state finalizes its funding numbers, he continued.
"It was again a very smooth process. It was give and take on both sides. Disagreements and agreements were made, but the process "wasn't mean spirited," Nichols stated.
He has served as union president for 12 years, and has participated in negotiating sessions for five contracts.
In addition to the pay freeze, some teachers also will pay more for insurance coverage.
Teachers will go from paying 10.5 percent for family coverage and 14 percent for single coverage of health insurance to 15 percent, and the district has eliminated vision coverage.
If they participate in a high deductible Health Savings Account (HSA), they will pay only 12 percent of the premium cost.
Both sides agreed to offering an HSA, to which teachers can contribute tax free for medical payments.
For anyone who takes advantage of the high deductible HSA, the board will contribute $1,000 the first year and $750 the second year to the account.
"We'll probably break even the first year," said Melchi.
"The district will save money because it's a high deductible plan," she added.
Because the deductible is higher, the annual premium is lower.
The deductible for a family plan is $2,500 in network and $5,000 out of network.
Retirement pay also has been reduced. Before, retiring teachers would get paid one quarter of accumulated unused sick leave up to 73 days plus 10 days for notification by April 1. In the next two years, the teachers will get paid one quarter of unused sick leave up to 65 days in 2013-14 and up to 55 days in 2014-15. They will no longer be paid for 10 days for early notification but now will receive a $1,500 flat sum for notification by March 15.
"Congratulations to both sides of the negotiating table," said board member Steve Cernkovich. And kudos to teachers for "doing more than their part."
Also in the contract, the teacher evaluation language has changed, and school will now only be closed for the primary election in November. The new contract also changes how several step increases based on education are figured.
While not part of this contract, administrative salaries also will be frozen, and 15 of the district's 19 administrators have offered a voluntary forfeiture of merit pay for the 2012-13 school year.
McVey said she is certain the remaining four also will agree to the forfeiture, but she has not received letters from them.
Administrators brought this idea to McVey, keeping with the spirit of working together while facing a financial crisis.
McVey, who is included on that list, called it a "positive gesture on their part."
Board President Ellen Scholl called it "a willingness to help us in this time of crisis."
Melchi did not know the amount of savings from this action.
Also at the meeting, the board accepted the retirement request for Martha Fether, Kenwood Elementary principal, effective July 1.

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