Teachers agree to pay freeze
- Published: August 11, 2011
The Yellow Springs school board unanimously approved a new contract with the Yellow Springs Education Association at its meeting Monday, Aug. 1. The two-year agreement includes a number of measures that will freeze pay and reduce benefits for the 50 certified staff members who are part of the teachers union. And while the district continues to spend at a deficit each year, the agreement allows the schools to stretch the cash carryover an additional year, according to District Superintendent Mario Basora. The five-year budget forecast now shows that instead of encountering a negative cash balance in the 2013–14 school year, the district can expect to maintain solvency until the 2014–15 school year.
“I am deeply appreciative of the collaboration and sacrifices that our staff members have committed to as part of our new agreements. Given our serious financial crisis, our entire staff came together for the betterment of our students and families here in Yellow Springs,” Basora wrote in a statement to the News on Monday. “In particular, I would like to thank YSEA president Vickie Hitchcock, OAPSE president Nancy Bussey and both negotiating teams for their dedication and willingness to find common ground,” he said of both the teachers and the classified staff unions.
School board member Aïda Merhemic also expressed gratitude during Monday’s brief meeting.
“I want to extend my appreciation to everyone who did that because it’s huge,” she said.
The teachers discussed the contract proposal at length last week and approved it by a reluctant majority, according to YSEA President Hitchcock. But changes imposed by Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 could leave teachers more vulnerable than the cuts in the contract, which will now supersede state legislative changes for the next two years, she said this week. She wrote the following public statement about the YSEA’s decision:
“Senate Bill 5 hung like a dark, thunderous cloud over the heads of our teachers. Teachers reluctantly accepted the contract to forestall the grave impact the legislation would have upon our working conditions. Our teachers are dedicated professionals who will continue to provide their students a quality educational experience, even as teachers and public education are attacked.”
The teachers contract includes zero percent base salary increases and the elimination of step increases in salary schedules for all teachers for both years. (The agreement is a change from the previous contract’s three years of 3 percent annual salary increases and annual pay step increases.) Teachers agreed to increase their personal share of the health insurance premiums, thereby reducing the district’s share of the ratio, which went from 85 percent–15 percent the last three years to 80 percent–20 percent for the next two years. The cost of insurance payments for teachers with families will be about $720 a year, Basora said. Teachers also agreed to waive their annual $500 flexible spending accounts for out of pocket healthcare costs, as well as reduce by 2 percent their supplemental contract pay to lead activities such as School Forest, class advising, tutoring and fitness room and detention monitoring. Teachers also accepted as part of their contract, two $300 stipends, one in December 2011, and one in December 2012.
In terms of policy changes, the contract gives administrators more flexibility in evaluating teachers and nonrenewing their contracts by eliminating from the contract the specific rating teachers must meet to justify dismissal. The new contract also gives the schools the ability to fill supplemental positions with non-staff members and to nominate an arranged compensation level. Regarding rehabilitation for deficient performance, the new contract specifies that teachers may be referred to a mentoring team of two teachers and two administrators, where in past years only one mentoring teacher was required.
The terms of the teachers’ contract will lead to a net savings of about $287,000 over two years, according to Basora’s calculations. That, in addition to the $50,000 savings the district achieved from the contract approved last month for the 21 classified staff members, and $10,000 in concessions from the district’s 12 policy and administrative employees, should yield a total of about $347,000 in savings for the district over the next two years, according to Basora.
The compounded effect will buy the district one more year in positive cash balance, meaning that its current cash surplus will now cover the district’s annual deficit spending (expected to be about $790,000 for the 2011–12 school year) until the 2014–15 school year. The extension gives the district more time to figure out how to raise its revenues, which remain at levels of four or five years ago, to match spending, which, despite recent cuts, has significantly outpaced revenues, Basora said.
“The expenditure savings from our new contracts, net reduction of 4.6 staff member positions, early retirement incentives, and other reductions have made a significant dent in reducing our annual deficit spending, and have given us (according to estimates) an additional year of positive cash balance,” he wrote in an e-mail this week. “While this is great progress, without significant growth in revenue, our best estimates show that we will still be deficit spending and taking our cash balance down to zero early in the 2014–15 school year.”
The savings in the new contracts are significant, but don’t eliminate the district’s financial challenges, according to school board member Richard Lapedes at Monday’s meeting.
“For the strategic well-being of the district, financially and pedagogically, we can look upon this as being on first base — now we’re ready for the next hit,” Lapedes said. “A strategic outcome is within our sights.”