Galway teachers and the school board have approved a four-year contract that freezes salaries for nearly one year and allows the district to cancel the planned elimination of 1.5 positions.
The new contract was approved by both parties in late June and took effect July 1.
The contract eliminates percentage pay increases across the four years, giving employees only their annual step increases, which are different for each person depending on the pay scale. The first year, those step increases will be delayed until April and will average 2.4 percent, said Bill Brooks, chief negotiator for the Galway Teachers Association and a high school social studies teacher.
The following three years, step increases will average 2 percent a year.
Delaying the step increase for the 2012-13 school year will save the district $150,000, allowing it to restore the equivalent of 1.5 jobs that would have been cut in the areas of music, art and special education, said John Sutton, a school board member who served on the negotiating team.
Teachers also will pay slightly more for their health insurance premiums. They currently foot 13 percent of the bill but by the end of the four years they’ll be paying 15 percent, Brooks said.
The school board wanted that amount to be higher, and also hesitated to lock the district in to more than a two-year contract, but it made concessions, as did the teachers.
“Unfortunately, the district had to take a very hard line,” Sutton said. “The teachers did certainly agree to sacrifice accordingly.”
Teacher concessions included reducing step increases and forgoing pay increases in addition to the steps. They also agreed to reduce stipends for coaches and other supplementary jobs by 10 percent and then freezing those stipends for four years.
“They’re not mandated, and some of them are the first to go,” Brooks said of those jobs. By cutting the pay, the union hoped to keep more of those positions so students can continue to play sports and take part in the clubs and activities.
Teachers recognize the tough times that school districts and taxpayers face, he said. “In this environment, it’s really hard for a school like Galway to make do.”
The district has had to lay off almost 20 teachers in the past five years, Brooks noted. “We wanted to stop the bleeding as much as we could.”
Across the state, teachers unions have traditionally received step increases as well as percentage increases, which boosted the entire salary schedule yearly. That’s also traditionally been the case at Galway.
Without that annual inflation of the pay schedule, the district will save some money, Sutton said.