Northport teachers agree to pay freeze
Teachers in Northport agreed to a pay freeze to ease a budget crunch and will go to a health insurance plan with deductibles — which they’ve never had to pay before — in order to comply with a new state law. In return they’llgeta1percent,one-timebonus.
The Northport Education Association, made up of 21 teaching staff members, ratified a one-year contract on July 25. The Northport Board of Education approved the contract at a special meeting held the same evening. The new contract goes into effect Sept. 1.
The teacher bonuses will come from the $300,000 the district is saving by going to a MESSA Plan A health savings account. The district now pays $600,000 per year for health insurance for teachers; under the new contract it will pay $299,000. Under the new health insurance plan a single person will have an annual deductible amount of $1,250 per year and a family will pay a deductible of $2,500.
“It is what it is,” said Peter Morio, president of the teachers association. “As far as the negotiation team was concerned the district and the association worked well together. This is as good as we could have done with the current situation.”
Senate Bill 7 was passed in 2011 and limits the amount a school district or local government can pay for employee health insurance. The cap is $5,500 for a plan for a single person, $11,000 for a couple, and $15,000 for a family. The law is meant to restrict local government entities and school districts from giving their employees health insurance benefits that are more expensive than what most private-sector employees receive.
Because of the new law, Northport teachers were faced with either decreasing their health insurance, or being on the hook for paying the difference, Morio said.
While the district will save $300,000 on health insurance costs, the 1 percent bonus for teachers will cost about $58,000, said Superintendent Jeff Tropf. The savings will also be used to offset a projected budget deficit of $303,000 for the 2012-13 academic year, Tropf said.
“Because of that our staff elected to accept a freeze,” Tropf said. “They will be paid this year what they were paid last year.”
This year’s district budget is $3.56 million; the district has a projected enrollment of 165 students. Last year the district had a $3.62 million spending plan.
Under the current three-year contract teachers received 2 percent raises in each year. They also had the MESSA Super Care 1 health plan, under which they paid a $5 co-pay for prescriptions and had no deductible costs. Under that plan the cost for each employee that is on a family plan is $30,000 per year.
Other changes made by the Michigan Legislature took several topics out of the negotiations process, including placement of teachers, reduction and recall of teachers, teacher evaluations, teacher discipline and discharge and privatization.
The four bargaining areas covered by negotiations in Northport were salaries, health insurance, the master agreement and the calendar year. Prohibited language was removed from the master agreement per the new state guidelines, Tropf said, and the school calendar is essentially the same as last year’s, following the calendar of the Traverse Bay Area ISD. as well as the calendars of other area school districts.