School board, early childhood union reach deal on contract

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education and the union that represents employees at the Early Childhood Center at Central Avenue have agreed on a new, three-year contract.

The contract, which is retroactive from July 1, 2019 and runs through June 30, 2022, was unanimously approved by the board and signed by the union last month.

Under the contract, workers retroactively received a 1.77% raise for the 2019-20 fiscal year and a 2% raise this fiscal year. Salary increases for the 2021-22 fiscal year will be based on early childhood grants received by the school board, the contract states.

The union represents about 30 employees, including teachers, coordinators, interventionists and door monitors, according to Human Resources Director John Lawlor.

The Early Childhood Center houses the school district’s preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds, including the federal Head Start and School Readiness programs. There are 143 students enrolled this school year and 11 classes, according to Board of Education Chairman Jeffrey Litke.

Employees who work at least 30 hours a week are eligible for health insurance through a high deductible health plan provided the board, according to the contract.

The plan has a $2,000 annual deductible for individuals and a $4,000 deductible for families this calendar year. The annual deductibles increase to $2,250 and $4,500, respectively, for the 2021 and 2022 calendar years. Employees are responsible for 100% of the deductible, according to the contract.

Employees are paying 6% of the premium for health care this calendar year and will pay 5% in 2021 and 2022.

Eligible employees who waive health benefits will receive a $1,000 payment for an individual, $2,000 for two people, and $3,000 for waiving family coverage.

Eligible employees hired before June 30 this year can receive the same health benefits when they retire until they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare, the contract states. The board will pay 50% of the premium and retirees are reasonable for 100% of the cost for any dependents. The board will pay 50% of the cost for individual coverage for Medicare.

Employees hired on or after July 1 this year aren’t eligible for these benefits when they retire.

Full-time employees hired before Jan. 1, 2012, are eligible to participate in the borough’s defined benefit pension plan and must contribute 4% of their salary. Those hired later are eligible to participate in a defined contribution plan, which is similar to a 401(K) in the private sector.

Lawlor said the contract does not have a financial impact on the school board’s budget because programs at the center are funded through state and federal grants.

“I believe the new ECC contract is a fair agreement for both sides,” Litke said. “I look forward to continue working with the dedicated staff of the ECC to provide a great education for our youngest learners.”

Union President Colleen Freer-Wagner, a teacher at the center, said the pandemic created unforeseen setbacks to complete the contract. She’s pleased with the finished product.

“We are thrilled to have a collective bargaining agreement that addresses our coalition’s needs and unique position within the Naugatuck Board of Education,” Wagner said.