E. HOLMES DISTRICT -- Teachers and staff will earn a little more in the coming year, thanks to action taken by the Board of Education.
Approved was a memorandum of understanding between the board and the East Holmes Teachers' Association. The one-year agreement, which spans July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, is part of a previously approved three-year contract, which included a reopener for wages and benefits in the last year.
The last year of the contract remained open for negotiations because the contract spans two state biennium budget cycles, and, by waiting to negotiate third-year finances, the district and the association are better equipped to work with tangible numbers, according to Treasurer Kellie Breehl.
The agreement includes a 1.5 percent increase in base rate, which, similarly was offered to administrators and classified employees, who are not members of the bargaining unit. Raises are not shared with the district superintendent and treasurer, with whom the district contracts individually.
The agreement also calls for changes to the health insurance plan offered to employees and their families.
Based on the agreement, premiums paid by employees were adjusted upward from 5 percent to 9 percent. Similarly, deductibles increased from $1,300 to $1,750 for an individual and from $2,600 to $3,500 for a family.
The changes are reflective of the district's ongoing need to respond to rising health care costs, which have not been passed on to employees for many years, said Superintendent Erik Beun, noting, despite the increases, the plan remains very competitive to others offered in both the public and private sectors.
"We have made very little changes in the last 10 years, and this is a step to addressing our health insurance challenges," he said, adding, "We want to create an environment where the employees and employer are partners."
Of the entire negotiation process, Beun said, it was "very positive."
"One thing East Holmes has enjoyed is a great relationship with our association. Overall, our focus is to create excellent experiences with our kids, and we appreciate their having the same vision," said Beun.
Next year, the board and the association will begin negotiations for a new three-year contract. It is unknown if that will, likewise, include a provision to reopen negotiations for wages and benefits due to the two-year state budget cycle.
Association President Bert Jones did not return calls for comment.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.