NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education has approved a new three-year agreement with the teachers’ union that includes yearly raises and modifications to the health care plan.
Under the terms of the tentative agreement, teachers will earn raises of 9.28 percent over three years, according to Human Resources Director John Lawlor. That breaks down to 2.92 percent in 2015-16, 3.13 in 2016-17 and 3.12 in 2017-18.
Additionally, coaches and department heads will receive a 1 percent increase each year on their stipends. Teachers will also earn a 1 percent increase each year on the hourly rate for extra hours.
The projected gross wage impact of the settlement, including stipend and hourly rate increases, is about $731,000 in year one, $806,000 in year two, and $828,000 in year three, for a total of $2.4 million over the three years, Lawlor said.
Lawlor said the increase is consistent with what other teachers across the state have received in recent contract settlements.
Teachers approved the contract Thursday by 95 percent, according to Charlie Marenghi, vice president of the Naugatuck Teachers League.
He said teachers understand the economic climate and felt the contract was fair.
Most of the increase in the district’s budget comes from insurance, even with a decreasing workforce, Marenghi said.
“There’s a finite amount of money the district has to work with,” he said. “Every bit we negotiate, whether it’s pay, insurance, it will all tie into job security over the next three years.”
The union agreed to continue on a high-deductible health care plan, but that deductible is increasing by $250 per individual and $500 per family. Currently, teachers are paying 16 percent of the premium cost and receive 50 percent of the deductible in a Health Savings Account. Next year, teachers will pay 5 percent of the premium and 100 percent of the deductible.
“Insurance is the greatest burden on the Board of Ed. … We had to think differently on how we approached the insurance benefits,” Marenghi said.
The contract also spells out a significant reduction in the number of prescription drugs that are considered preventive and therefore funded by the district 100 percent. The only drugs teachers won’t pay a co-pay for are contraceptives and diabetes medication.
Any retiring teacher who is eligible for Medicare would be required to enroll in the TRB supplemental plan instead of the district’s plan.
In total, the revamp of the health care plan will save the district about $435,000 in the first year, Lawlor said, offsetting the salary increases, for a net increase of about $296,000.
Considering the money saved on medical costs, the total budget impact would be $1.9 million over three years, Lawlor said.
He said the savings estimate doesn’t take into consideration the effect of the higher deductible on claims.
In addition to the salary and health changes, the contract makes a number of language changes.
It includes a more structured grievance process, Lawlor said. The district also agrees to reopen the contract to deal with the potential effects of the Affordable Care Act Excise Tax in the last year of the contract.
The contract eliminates two guaranteed professional days and instead leaves professional days at the discretion of the superintendent. It also reduces the maximum number of accumulated personal days from six to five. Except for certain circumstances, any personal days need to be used by May 15.
The contract allows for flexible scheduling so principals can work with teachers to meet student needs, according to Superintendent Sharon Locke. For example, a reading teacher may be able to start later, then stay after the normal school day for a reading intervention.
“It enables us to increase student learning time without increasing the teacher workday, which is awesome for students,” Locke said.
The contract also increases common planning and faculty meeting time from three to four hours per month, for an additional 10 hours per year.
“Overall, the committee believes it’s a nice agreement for both sides,” Lawlor said. “We were allowed to do some real creative things.”
Board of Education Chairman David Heller said the contract was a win for students and staff.
“We saw a tremendous amount of enthusiasm from the teachers to work with the new leadership here at Tuttle. The superintendent brought some issues forward that would improve and extend the learning day. We were able to accomplish that without a big economic impact,” Heller said.
The contract has to go to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses to either accept, send to arbitration or take no action, which would mean the contract would automatically go into effect.