Newton Falls teachers strike nears

The core issues are salary and insurance, the schools superintendent said.
NEWTON FALLS -- Although negotiations between the Newton Falls Board of Education and the teachers union continue, a strike "is almost certain," Superintendent David Wilson said today.
The school board and the Newton Falls Classroom Teachers Association met for almost six hours Wednesday under the jurisdiction of a federal mediator.
"Although some progress was made, the parties were not able to come to agreement on the all of the outstanding issues," Wilson said.
The two sides will meet again with the mediator Tuesday, and if no agreement can be reached, union members plan to strike Thursday.
The district is working with a Strongsville-based company to hire 60 substitute teachers and security in case of strike, Wilson said.
At this time, the district doesn't plan to cancel any extracurricular activities but will deal with each event individually if a strike occurs, Wilson said.
"We plan on continuing school as normally as possible," he said.
The core issues
The two core areas of difference between the parties are salary and insurance, Wilson said.
The board proposed a two-year contract with a salary increase of 2.1 percent for each year, and the union proposed a one-year contract with a guaranteed cost of living increase, plus 1 percent.
The union's pay raise proposal equates to a 5.1 percent increase, according to the board's calculation.
The average salary for a Newton Falls teacher is $48,600, and the district has 42 teachers who make more than $51,000 per year.
Health care
The teachers' proposal also maintains the current health-care contribution levels, which are $20 per month for a single plan and $40 per month for a family plan.
The board's proposal raises the contribution levels to $39 per month for a single plan and $100 per month for a family plan.
The board is proposing the increases in employee contributions because it expects to see an additional 10 percent increase in insurance premiums. The increase would cost the district an estimated $95,000 per year, Wilson said.

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