AUSTINTOWN Board, teachers approve contract for next two years

Teachers agreed to pick up a portion of their health care costs.
AUSTINTOWN -- The Austintown Board of Education and its teachers have a new contract.
The board voted 4-1 Tuesday to pass the new two-year pact during its meeting at Watson Elementary School. The Austintown Education Association ratified the deal Monday by a vote of 198-30.
Ohio Education Association labor relations consultant Alf Nelson said the contract includes raises of 2 percent in the first year and 2.5 percent in the second year. Nelson was the lead negotiator for the union during contract talks.
Superintendent Douglas Heuer said the contract will raise the base salary for starting teachers from $27,660 a year to $28,440, beginning Aug. 29. Top pay for district teachers is $66,000.
Heuer also said the teachers agreed for the first time to contribute to health care. The co-pay for individual health care plans is $250 a year, and the co-pay for families is $600, he said. Teachers also agreed to double their co-pay for prescriptions.
Voting against the contract was board member Michael Creatore.
"The only concern I had was giving pay raises when we're still forecasting deficits," he said.
He said he believes the health care co-pay is a step in the right direction, however.
Retire-and-rehire plan
The school district and the union also negotiated a retire-and-rehire plan for teachers, which Heuer says will save the district $100,000 this year and $360,000 next year.
Nelson said the plan wasn't part of the contract but was negotiated during the talks. It will be in place during the two years of the contract.
Of 13 teachers who retired last year, nine are returning this year.
The teachers who retire at top pay are rehired at about half their former salaries and receive no health benefits, Heuer said. They are offered two, one-year limited contracts, meaning there is no guarantee of contract renewal.
He said those teachers must be given severance pay this year, and that is why this year's savings aren't as great as next year's will be, even if more teachers opt to take part in the plan.
But Heuer said that even if more teachers opt to take part in the plan next year and are given severance, the district will still save money.
Nelson said that retiring teachers can be rehired at the lower salaries but still collect their pensions from the state, so there is no financial reason for them not to participate in the plan.
Nelson said the plan saves the district money, "but it retains valuable staff."
Negotiations schedule
Negotiations for the teachers' pact began in May and ended Monday morning. The old contract was set to expire Aug. 28.
Heuer said negotiations with the district's other union, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, begin Friday. The union represents secretaries, custodians, cleaners, paraprofessionals and bus drivers.
The contract with OAPSE expired in June, but Heuer said union members are working under the terms of the old pact while a new agreement is worked out.

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