Janesville60.4°

Milton School Board, teachers union reach tenative deal

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Stacy Vogel
August 23, 2008
— Homeowners in the Milton School District might see a smaller property-tax increase next year if the teachers union and school board ratify a tentative agreement reached Thursday afternoon.

The two sides announced the agreement in a joint news release Friday after a 10-hour mediation session the day before. They declined to release terms of the tentative contract until both sides have verified a written version, expected to happen early next week.


Milton teachers worked the entire 2007-08 school year under an expired contract as the union and district hashed out issues about salary and class sizes.


The school district filed for mediation in April after it decided negotiations had reached an impasse. The two sides met with the state mediator for the first time Thursday.


Milton officials had expected the lack of a contract to boost the district’s tax rate in the coming year.


The district expected less state aid in 2008-09 because it didn’t spend the money it set aside for salary raises in 2007-08. It planned to raise the tax levy to make up for the drop in aid.


But now, the tax rate could be about 29 cents lower per $1,000 of equalized value than the original estimate, said Dianne Meyer, district business manager.


That means the owner of a $100,000 house would see a $29 savings over the original proposed rate.


Meyer estimated the new tax rate at $7.82 per $1,000 if the contract is ratified, a 3.4 percent increase over 2007-08 and a 3.6 percent decrease from the rate as originally proposed.


Salary seemed to be the major sticking point in the negotiations. The teachers and district agreed on a new benefits plan months ago.


The new benefits plan puts all teachers on the same plan, a “trust-preferred” plan that pays for 100 percent of qualified services in the plan’s preferred-provider network and less for services outside the network.


The plan will save the district an estimated $300,000 a year, Meyer said.


Teachers are happy with the plan, too, said Shelly Kress, union president.


“It kind of made things easier because now we’re all on the same plan,” she said.


The school district will probably vote on ratification of the contract at its Sept. 22 meeting, Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said. The teachers will probably vote on the contract in the next two weeks, Kress said.


“I think the teachers will be satisfied,” she said. “I know that we’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and it’s just kind of a relief that it’s over with.”


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BY THE NUMBERS:


$8.11: Proposed 2008-09 tax rate if teachers don’t receive a new contract


$7.82: Estimated 2008-09 rate if the contract is ratified by Oct. 1


$7.56: 2007-08 tax rate



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