Edgerton reaches teacher contract
EDGERTON The Edgerton School District and its teachers union have reached a two-year labor agreement that Superintendent Dennis Pauli said could help the district balance its budget, mostly through salary and benefits concessions from teachers.
On Thursday, negotiators for the teachers union approved the deal unanimously and the school board approved it 6-1, with board member Larry Oberdeck casting the lone "no" vote, according to Pauli.
The union had ratified the deal Thursday, after talks between the union started earlier in the week.
The two sides struck the deal Thursday night after state legislators passed Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget-relief bill—but before the governor signed the bill into law. The bill strips most public employees of almost all of their collective bargaining rights.
Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette said Monday he decided to delay publication of the law until the latest possible day, March 25, to give local governments as much time as possible to reach agreements. The law doesn't take effect until the day after La Follette publishes it.
Pauli said after the deal was approved Thursday, about 70 union members at the meeting gave the board a standing ovation.
In the agreement, the union agreed to pay for the state-mandated employee share of teacher pension and 6 percent of its health insurance costs.
As part of the agreement, the union also agreed to salary freezes over the next two years. The district and the union in recent years have agreed to an average compensation increase for teachers of about 4.2 percent, Pauli said.
Also through the agreement, the district will drop the union's current health insurance carrier, the WEA Trust. The district is gathering bids to change to a different health insurance provider, which Pauli said could save at least $500,000 over the next year.
Pauli said he's hopeful that the agreement, with its salary and benefits concessions, will allow the district to bridge what could be a $1.3 million budget gap in 2011-12, according to recent district estimates.
But he said the contract has a fiscal stability guarantee, a clause protecting against any worsening in the district's finances.
The clause says that the district will take stock of its finances June 1, at the start of its next fiscal year. If at that time the district's reserve fund holds less than $1.8 million, Pauli said the district could then ask teachers to pay more toward health insurance.
Pauli said the district has $1.8 million reserve funds, an increase from the two past years.
"We're trying to grow it (the fund balance), and we believe that they'll continue to grow. We're very confident we'll be able to maintain $1.8 million both years of the contract," He said.
The district earlier this year announced possibly cutting at least two teachers, but Pauli said that under the new contract, the district plans not to reduce staff or cut programs, unless through attrition or if enrollment decreases.