Schalmont teachers have finally reached agreement on a new contract with the district — 958 days after the last one expired.
The Board of Education on Monday approved the five-year pact with the Schalmont Teachers Association. The teachers had been working under the terms of a contract that expired June 30, 2009. But under the Triborough Amendment to the state’s Taylor Law, the teachers continued to receive annual longevity pay raises. Among the sticking points were the usual salary and benefits, as school officials said previously they were trying to hold the line because of the challenging fiscal climate — especially with the onset of the state property tax levy cap.
The agreement contains a 1.5 percent salary increase retroactive for 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and the current school year to date. The teachers agreed not to take a salary increase for 2012-2013 — other than the longevity increases.
The starting salary for a teacher with a master’s degree is $42,939 under the last contract. The top salary is $95,531.
In addition, the union agreed to switch to a less expensive health care plan and double the annual employee contribution rate from 5 percent to 10 percent. Those changes will save the district close to $400,000 a year. The union will forgo $48,000 in funding for the district’s Innovations in the Development of Educational Achievement grant program.
Superintendent Valerie Kelsey praised the union for the concessions, saying the members recognized the difficult fiscal times.
“Both sides obviously have strong convictions on things. It’s a lengthy process, a more lengthy process than some would like, but the outcome is to benefit the students of Schalmont,” she said.
Kelsey was not sure how much paying out the retroactive raises would cost but said the district had been putting aside money because it knew it would settle the contract eventually.
Schalmont Teachers Association President Mary Beth Flatley shared a similar sentiment.
“It’s a fair and equitable contract that really looks at the fiscal long-term viability of the district,” he said.
Board of Education President Sandra Beloncik said the union was very professional throughout the negotiations.
“If you walked in a school, you would never know this was going on,” she said. “We are Schalmont. We carry our heads high. We have a focus and that is student education and we do great at it.”
Kelsey said the savings through this new contract will help mitigate the need for budget reductions.
The Budget Advisory Committee will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 29 at the middle school.
In other business, the board discussed two separate letters Schalmont received from Mohonasen and Duanesburg school officials inquiring whether Schalmont would want to apply for a state grant for a study of shared services, which could include everything all the way up to a merger.
Board member Robert Sheehan pointed out that the district does a shared GED program with Mohonasen and shares transportation services with both districts. He wondered what other options there were exclusive of a merger. He wanted to also know more about Duanesburg’s thoughts.
“Once we say the big M word, I think people in the district get nervous. They get nervous because there’s a lack of information,” he said.
There was general support for applying for a grant to do a study.