Before the contract was ratified by the HEA members Jan. 8, several issues were clarified after concerns arose in December.
"The agreement calls for salary increases for all employees of 2 percent in the first year, 2.2 percent in the second year and 2.4 percent in the third year of the contract," Board President Thomas Kinst said at the meeting, reading a press release on the new agreement.
Part of the agreement for 2013-2016 includes an understanding the district will switch to the state health benefits plan, which the board also approved a new plan to switch to the state plan May 1. The board had approved a change Jan. 1 after reaching the contract agreement, but then had to rescind the change, citing a need for more time to change.
Also, as part of the new contract, HEA members will switch to a new schedule of contributions. According to HEA President Daynon Blevins, association members have been contributing 18 percent of the medical insurance premiums, but under the new contract terms, the membership will instead switch to the tiered system included in the 2011 reform legislation.
The move puts the contributions on a sliding scale, based on salary, ranging from 2.25 percent to 17.5 percent. The contribution rates will increase to 4.5 percent for employees earning less than $20,000 annually, to 35 percent for the highest paid (over $95,000).
Blevins said the HEA members would have eventually ended up paying the higher rates regardless, but with the new agreement, lower pair employees—such as educational support personnel—will pay the lower rates.
And the change should also benefit both district taxpayers and employees by lowering the premium costs of the insurance.
"Through negotiations, we stated that it seems to us that the rates in the (state health benefits plan) historically have not increased at the rate the private plans do, and that they offer the same level of coverage as what we have," Blevins said.
The new contract also includes more time for HEA members to participate in "Professional Learning Committees, Professional Development and other professional activities to enable teachers and administrators to meet the new state accountability mandates for teachers and students."
Kinst said the agreement approved Monday also included clarified contract terms for personal leave, attendance at back-to-school nights, lunch and dinner breaks times for custodial and maintenance personnel, and employment eligibility for health care benefits."The comprehensive agreement deals with many of the issues that were identified as priorities by both the board and the association at the outset of negotiations, and reflects the parties’ desire to continue to offer outstanding educational opportunities for its students and maintain competitive salaries and benefits for its employees within the financial constraints of the district," he said. "The board and the association are extremely pleased that, through cooperative negotiations with the association, the parties were able to settle this contract, addressing the needs of both the board and association."