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Evansville teachers approve contract concessions

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GINA R. HEINE
February 11, 2012
— The Evansville teachers union voted by a 4-1 margin Friday to make changes to health insurance and salaries to avoid layoffs in the 2012-13 school year.

The decision will save the school district nearly $500,000 and preserve as many as eight staff positions, according to a news release issued Friday afternoon by the Evansville School District. The concessions would help the district fill what is expected to be a $1.6 million budget deficit next year.


The school board is scheduled to vote on the contract changes at its meeting Monday night.


The teachers Friday accepted a salary increase of 1 percent rather than the estimated 3.2 percent in the contract approved in March.


The contract includes five changes to health care benefits, including an increase in premiums from 5 percent to 8 percent. The contract also includes increases in emergency room copays and reduces by $820 cash stipends for staff members who choose coverage from their spouses’ employers rather than the district.


The process of renegotiating the contract was difficult for everyone involved, school board President Kathi Swanson wrote in the news release.


“The concessions agreed upon preserve teaching positions, and saving teaching positions is what’s best for the children of our district,” Swanson said.


Superintendent Heidi Carvin agreed.


“This is a huge relief,” Carvin said. “We really appreciate the openness and efforts of the union to save jobs for kids.”


The original contract was in place through June 2013 and included teachers paying 5 percent of their health insurance premiums and half of their retirement contributions.


The salary schedule was tied to the consumer price index, which officials assumed when the contract was settled would be an increase of 1 percent. That index now is around 3 percent.


Other unions in the district have contracts with salary increases of 1 percent.


In February 2011, the school district and teachers union came together in record fashion when changes at the state level loomed. A new teachers contract was negotiated and approved within two days.


Negotiations moved quickly after the teachers voted 105-34 in December to reopen their contract. Changes need to be voted on and approved by union members and the school board by Feb. 20.


State legislation that went into effect in November allows public sector unions to open their contracts to make concessions while keeping the rest of the contract intact.


Without concessions, the district would be looking at cutting $1.55 million in salary and benefits and about $50,000 in supplies and materials, which already have been cut, Carvin said.


Rather than make cuts for this school year, the school board decided to fill this year’s deficit of about $600,000 using money from the district’s fund balance. The district also faces a loss in federal aid next year, an increase in general expenses and an estimated 8 percent increase in health insurance costs, Carvin said.



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