Teachers agree to contract

By Karl Henkel



South Range’s possible deficit dilemma got a little bit less hectic after the district and its teachers union agreed to a new two-year contract, according to school officials.

Superintendent Dennis Dunham and Treasurer Jim Phillips, who at a community forum earlier this month told residents the district was facing budget deficits of up to $5.9 million in 2014, said Tuesday that number is down to $1.6 million, in part due to the savings of the new contract.

“This contract allows this district to move forward,” Dunham said.

In another cost-saving measure, the district previously told 30 employees, mostly tutors and aides, their jobs for the 2011-12 school year were not assured.

Under terms of the deal, which was approved unanimously, teachers agreed to wage and step freezes for the next two years, and agreed to pay 10 percent of health-care premiums. The step scale normally increases pay based on level of education and years of experience.

Under the previous three-year contract, they paid slightly less than 5 percent of health care-premiums and received annual salary raises of 3 percent, 3 percent and 2 percent.

Also included in the contract was a stipulation for health-care premiums in the second year, if Senate Bill 5, currently on the floor in the House, passes. At that point, teachers would pay whatever cost is outlined in SB 5.

Teachers union president Donna Slagle said negotiations between both parties were smooth.

“With the climate we’re in right now,” she said, “our staff 100 percent realized where we’re at.”

Phillips said six teachers are set to retire at the end of the year, and two won’t be replaced. The other four will be replaced with younger teachers.

Starting salary for a teacher at South Range is $32,977, and Phillips said the highest-paid teacher at the district currently makes approximately $70,000.

Dunham also said administrators will take the same deal as teachers, even if they already are in the midst of contracts. Dunham said salary and benefit packages are not written into contracts.

Dunham also said a possible November levy, also previously discussed, is still up in the air.

“I’m not going to say it isn’t going to happen,” he said. “But it may not be this fall.”

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