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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Small raises for teachers in newly approved contract

Updated 3:45 pm, Thursday, March 7, 2013
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The Representative Town Meeting on Tuesday approved in a near-unanimous decision a new, three-year teachers contract that includes no general pay increases in the first year and raises of less than 1 percent in the second and third years.

The new contract for the Westport Education Association will run from July 1 to June 30, 2016. The union's current pact expires on June 30.

"I was very pleased," Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon said Thursday of the RTM's vote. "We had superb representation from Dick Lowenstein and outstanding input from Tom Lasersohn. They were instrumental in helping us to achieve this settlement. Their support helped us to get this through the RTM without opposition."

Lowenstein is the chairman of the RTM's Employee Compensation Committee, while Lasersohn is a Board of Finance member.

The new deal calls for a wage freeze next year, a general wage increase of 0.75 percent in the 2014-15 school year and a raise of 0.8 percent in 2015-16.

"We are glad we now have a contract that is fair to both sides," officials from the Westport Education Association, the town's public-school teachers union, said in a statement Thursday.

In the new contract, teachers' health-insurance plans will switch from a preferred-provider framework to a "high-deductible health plan" with health-savings accounts. Under the HDHP, individuals will pay a $2,000 deductible, while families will pay a $4,000 deductible. The school district will contribute 50 percent of the deductible for active employees participating in a HDHP.

Teachers can "buy-up" to a preferred-provider-organization plan by paying the cost difference between the outlay for the PPO and what the school district would have contributed to a HDHP "premium equivalent."

In addition to those deductibles, teachers will pay annually between 16 percent and 18 percent of the costs of their high-deductible health plans during the three-year contract.

The switch to an HSA framework is projected to produce net savings for the school district of around $403,000 next year, $891,000 in the 2014-15 fiscal year and approximately $1.15 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The school district is projected to incur a net cost increase of approximately $2.5 million during the three-year span of the new pact.

Approximately 550 teachers will be covered by the new contract, according to Landon.

Negotiations on the new contract ran for several months. The town's negotiating team included Landon, Board of Education Chairwoman Elaine Whitney, Board of Education Vice Chairman Michael McGovern, former education board member Jim Marpe, Lasersohn, Lowenstein and Marge Cion, the school district's director of human resources. McGovern replaced Marpe as a negotiator when Marpe stepped down from the education board in November to run for first selectman.

"The negotiations were very professionally conducted and I think we ended up with a mutually beneficial agreement," Board of Education Chairwoman Elaine Whitney said on Tuesday. "We're pleased that we were able to make some structural changes that will help to reduce our costs long-term."

In December, the Board of Education unanimously approved the new teachers contract.

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott