By susan tebben
The Austintown teachers union agreed Monday to the terms of a three-year tentative contract between the group and the school district, which includes a pay raise for teachers.
By an “overwhelming” margin, the Austintown Education Association voted to approve the contract that was a result of months of negotiations between the two groups and a federal mediator, according to Barb Tomic, president of the union. A tentative agreement was reached by negotiation teams Feb. 25, moving the approval process to the teachers union.
“The level of stress has now decreased,” Tomic said after the meeting.
The meeting went much faster than the previous meeting March 5, when the teachers spent three hours discussing the contract, eventually deciding not to vote on the contract that night.
The teachers are working under their previous contract, which expired last May.
The new contract will be sent to the Austintown Board of Education for a vote, which is expected to take place tonight at the regular meeting, according to board president Dave Schnurrenberger.
“An important part of negotiations is reaching common ground, and we’re happy to be informed that the contract has passed union membership,” Schnurrenberger said.
The contract, if passed by the board, includes a 1.9 percent raise in salary for teachers, according to Superintendent Vince Colaluca.
With no budget reductions expected from the state level and increased revenue coming from open enrollment at the district, a reward for teachers was possible this time, Colaluca said.
“The constraints are: We have to live within the budget and with the money we are given by the taxpayers and the state,” Colaluca said. “So to not be reduced in the [state] biennium budget and to have this open-enrollment revenue, we’re happy to be able to reward our teachers.”
Colaluca said the open enrollment, which has brought 600 students to the district, has brought revenues of $3.5 million in the last year. That would translate to about 5.4 mills if the school asked for the money in a levy, according to Colaluca.
“Open enrollment has been the savior of this district ... and we’re glad we can share those increases with the staff,” Colaluca said.
Other terms of the contract were not available because the agreement is still pending the board vote. The regular meeting of the Austintown Board of Education is 6 p.m. today at Lloyd Elementary.