Watervliet teachers ratify new 5-year contract; Union helps district save nearly $4 million
Feb. 22, 2012
By an overwhelming margin, the Watervliet
Teachers’ Association ratified a new five-year contract last week
agreeing to changes that will save the school district nearly $4 million
over the length of the deal.
In a deal garnering a 97 percent approval rating, the union agreed to accept a new health insurance program in exchange for pay increases over the next five years.
The Board of Education is expected to approve the new contract – which will be effective from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2017– at its next meeting on March 13. The teachers’ union ratified the deal, 81-2, on Feb. 16.
“We’re pleased to have reached an agreement that is fair and that will help us contain some costs during these especially difficult economic times,” said Superintendent Dr. Lori Caplan. “It shows our teachers’ commitment to students and will help ease the fiscal challenges the district faces in the coming year.”
The new labor deal with the 140-member teachers’ union will offer cost savings to the district beginning in the first year. The district had been facing a more than $2.1 million budget deficit for 2012-13. The new teachers’ contract reduces that projected budget hole by nearly 30 percent.
“While cuts will certainly be needed to balance the 2012-13 budget, this new contract will give the Board of Education more flexibility to retain as many programs as possible,” Board of Education President Mark Scully said. “A $4 million savings is equivalent to the average combined pay of more than 50 teachers.”
The majority of the $4 million in savings for the district come as a result of a new health insurance product. The savings are mostly achieved by shifting the union members to a high deductable health reimbursement account (HRA). The shift to the HRA will save the district $526,207 in the first year with $3.2 million projected savings over five years. The teachers and the district have also reached an agreement regarding co-pay reimbursements that is expected to save the district nearly $70,000 in the first year and nearly $350,000 over the term of the contract.
District officials and the teachers’ union are pleased to have reached an agreement by working together.
“It’s important to note that this contract was bargained without the assistance of an outside negotiator or lawyer,” said Watervliet Teachers’ Association Co-President Scott Emerson said. “It shows the collaborative efforts of everyone working together in the best interest of the district and students.”
The new deal also included pay raises for the teachers whose pay, according to a recent survey, ranks near the bottom 10 percent when compared to other Capital Region teachers.
Watervliet teachers will receive raises in each year of the pact, 3 percent in each of the first two years, 2.5 percent in the third and fourth years and 2 percent in the final year. These raises are exclusive of step increments that are guaranteed by state law. Coach, advisor and club stipends will be frozen for the first year of the contract.