School Board Accepts New Contract Agreement with Teachers
The amended contract slows down salary increases and offers an early retirement incentive to eligible teachers. The move helped the district close the final gap in the 2012-2013 budget.
After months of renegotiations, the Centennial School District and Centennial Education Association came to a new agreement Tuesday night that extends the teachers' contract to 2016 and gives the district better control over the cost of salaries.
The extensions slows down and spreads out the salary increase increments over four years, instead of two, with an dditional .25 percent increase in 2015-2016. According to a release provided by the school district, the renegotiated four year package costs Centennial only the equivalent of two-thirds of one step more than the original two year contract.
“Our membership is more dedicated to academic, athletic and arts excellence than ever,” said Centennial Education Association President Cheryl Tonkinson in a statement to the press. “We know that tough decisions remain, but the Association very much wanted to be part of the solution."
The agreement also includes an early retirement incentive package for eligible teachers that will pay $10,000 a year for three years into a retirement savings medical account. A maximum of 12 teachers can take advantage of the offer this year by meeting the requirements before July 15, and a maximum of 18 teachers can do the same in June 2013.
School directors Jane Schrader Lynch and Betty Huf disagreed with the retirement incentives, forcing them to oppose the new agreement.
"With the economy the way it is right now," said Lynch, "I just cannot agree with using taxpayer money to create the incentive. It's not fair to the taxpayers."
Centennial Superintendent Dr. Jenny Cressman said the new salary structure and the reduction of a total 21 teachers helped the district reach a balanced budget for 2012-2013. The school board will vote on the final budget at a special meeting on June 18 at 8:30 p.m.
Despite a 6-2 vote, with director Charles Kleinschmidt abstaining because his daughter works for the district, the board was unanimous in its appreciation for the union's willingness to come back to the table in light of the district's financial struggle.
"This agreement makes it easier for us to go forward," said director Michael Hartline, who called for a total reduction of 55 teachers at a previous finance committee meeting. Hartline also expressed his gratitude for the work performed by Dr. Cressman and Centennial business administrator Chris Berdnik during negotiations.
Director Steve Adams was thankful for the cooperation between the teachers and the school district, implicitly referring to the ongoing turmoil happening in the Neshaminy School District.
According to the district, teachers will continue to pay into their healthcare benefits at increasing dollar amounts for all years of the contract. Centennial’s rate is based on a formula that results in a premium share of approximately 12 percent for the lower plan for singles to the highest option of an approximate 21 percent premium share for families.