The tentative agreement has the teachers receiving a 4.9 percent pay increase the first year of the contract (1999-2000) and a 4.1 percent increase the second year. The teachers will also receive an extra $100 per year for health insurance coverage.
The contract is subject to ratification by both the school board and the teachers union. Both groups are expected to meet and approve the contract in early January.
"Because of the deadline set by the Legislature, we had to reach a settlement by Jan. 18 or lose state aid," said Bill Brinkman, member of the teacher negotiating team.
"I feel we are in line with other districts that have signed new contracts," Caldwell said. As of Dec. 13, 92 of 354 school districts had reached new contract agreements.
Negotiations started in June for a two-year contract.
Other contract changes:
Language changes within the contract that will affect the staff members increases the days for leave from four to 12 days. "This makes extra days available to staff members for when a immediate member of the family becomes ill or a parent becomes sick," superintendent Howard Caldwell said. Under the old contract, staff members received only four days and parents were not included.
Teachers will also receive another personal leave day. This day can be used either the day before or the day after a holiday, lengthening their weekend.
Staff members will get an additional day for bereavement leave for people not part of the immediate family.
The pops choir was added to the extracurricular schedule.
The early retirement package was totally rewritten. Under the old policy, when a person reached the age of 55, the IRS states the entire value of the early retirement fund, under this benefit, is taxable.
"The IRS is giving school districts an opportunity to fix their packages before they tax staff members," Caldwell said.
To avoid this situation, the early retirement package was rewritten, making the amount received dependent on accumulated sick leave. Caldwell said it could be considered an extra benefit to those who do not use their sick leave, personal leave, bereavement leave, or family illness days.
Staff members who do use their sick leave or family leave days do not receive as much early retirement benefits.
To be eligible to use the funds in the new package, a staff member must be at least 55 years of age and must have taught within the district for 15 years.
"The early retirement language was the biggest issue we faced," Brinkman said. "We took a lot of time checking out various plans to see what would work, what would be allowed, and what was or wasn't taxable."
"Many school districts were affected by this IRS ruling," Brinkman said. "This issue arose during the year. The IRS made the decision that the funds set aside for retirement were taxable as soon as you become 55 years of age. It didn't matter whether you're retired or not," he added.
The regular retirement package for the teaching staff is not affected by this new contract language because it impacts only those utilizing the early retirement pacakge.
Members of the faculty negotiating team were: Brinkman, Murry Rafferty, Karen Mum, Jane Leitzman, and Scott George.
Negotiating on behalf of the school board were Fern Roberg, Maurice Dosdall, and Caldwell.
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