Three-year contract expected to net savings for Region 16
PROSPECT — The Region 16 Board of Education and teachers’ union have reached an agreement on a new, three-year contract.
“It’s a win-win all the way around, for the teachers and for the district and more importantly for the taxpayers as well,” said board Chair Robert Hiscox about the contract at the school board’s meeting last week.
The board unanimously approved the contract, 7-0, with board member Daisy Laone absent. The Region No. 16 Education Association, the teachers’ union, approved it before the meeting.
What made Hiscox describe the contract, which goes into effect on Aug. 15, 2019 and ends Aug. 14, 2022, as a “win-win” is that the deal is projected to net the region a savings over the three years, even though teachers’ compensation is increasing.
There are roughly 200 teachers in the region, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. Total compensation for teachers, including salary and step increases, is estimated to cost the region about 9 percent, or roughly $400,000, more over the life on the contract, according to Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin.
This school year, the salary for a teacher at the lowest step and education levels is $49,532, while a teacher with 20 or more years of experience and at the highest step and education levels earns $97,212, according to the contract that runs through Aug. 14, 2019.
Under the first year of the new contract, the salary for a teacher at the lowest step and education levels will remain $49,532, while teachers with 21 or more years of experience and at the highest step and education levels will earn $98,865. In the final year of the deal, the salary range will be $50,419 to $101,632, under the contract.
Although teacher compensation will increase, school officials expect to save about $700,000 to $1 million in healthcare costs over the three years.
The new contract switches the union’s health insurance coverage to the Connecticut State Partnership Plan 2.0, a healthcare plan that is open to non-state public employers and pools all the participants together in an effort to lower costs.
The region isn’t part of a larger pool for healthcare and receives healthcare prices as its own entity. Being part of a larger pool is where officials expect to realize the savings.
Under the new deal, teachers will pay 18 percent of the healthcare premium in the first year. That increases to 18.5 percent in the third year of the deal.
The contract in place offers teachers a choice between a PPO plan and a high deductible health plan with a health savings account. This year, teachers pay 23.75 percent of the cost for the PPO plan and 17.5 percent of the cost for the high deductible health plan.
Yamin said the exact amount the region will save in healthcare costs is unclear because the increases over the years aren’t known.
At a minimum, he said, the region expects to net a savings of $300,000 over the life of the contract.
The new deal also makes minor language changes throughout the contract.
In her 34 years on the school board, Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella said this is the fastest the union and the board reached an agreement on a new contract. She said the two sides worked very well together.
Hiscox echoed her sentiments, saying it was phenomenal to see how cooperative both sides were during negotiations.
“I think both sides understood where the other side was coming from in terms of financial impact for the region and the taxpayers, and the willingness to make some significant changes that are going to benefit both the taxpayers and teachers,” he said.