Janesville33°

Turner teachers start negotiations

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ANN MARIE AMES
April 11, 2009
— Health care plans for teachers in the Turner School District likely will be the focus of contract negotiations this year, spokespeople for the teachers and administration said.

The two sides met for the first time this week and will meet again Tuesday, April 21.


The offers so far:


-- The district is offering a 3.8 percent total package increase, district Administrator Dennis McCarthy said.


In order to increase salaries, the district would like to find alternative health care coverage, he said.


-- The teachers are proposing a 5 percent per cell salary increase. That doesn’t include the cost of benefits.


According to a survey, the teachers’ top priority is keeping their WEA Trust health insurance, union president Shelly Crull-Hanke said.


McCarthy said the district proposes forming a collective group of administrators and teachers to explore alternative health care plans. If the district found a less expensive insurance plan, it could use the money to boost teachers’ take home pay, he said.


“We want to pay our teachers more,” McCarthy said.


Currently, the district pays about $9,000 for a single plan and just over $20,000 for a family plan, McCarthy said.


Those costs are projected to increase to $9,700 and $22,000, he said.


“There are people out there who are not making $22,000,” McCarthy said. “To pay that just for health care, that’s pretty hard for us to swallow.”


Crull-Hanke said the WEA Trust is a “great plan.” Keeping it came in No. 1 on a list of priorities teachers named in a survey.


However, the teachers would “not be opposed” to researching alternatives, she said.


Other priorities were increasing salaries and improving retirement benefits, Crull-Hanke said.


Last year, the district offered a stipend of $11,000 per year for four years to encourage early retirement. The money can be used for health insurance.


The stipend dropped to $8,000 for teachers who retired at the end of this year or will retire in future years.


“Eight thousand dollars doesn’t even cover the cost of a single plan,” Crull-Hanke said.


Other contract changes could include creating a workday of 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for staff and a new method of evaluating non-probationary teachers.


Crull-Hanke acknowledged that it’s not an easy time to negotiate salary increases.


“But for 16 years our salaries were held down,” Crull-Hanke said. “We didn’t get big raises when times were good.”



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