October 21, 2014

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Keystone teachers accept two-year wage freeze

LAGRANGE — Keystone Schools teachers have agreed to a two-year wage freeze and higher insurance premiums under terms of a new contract.

The wage freeze mirrors what administrators will receive as part of an agreement reached last month by the school board and 12 administrators, including Superintendent Jay Arbaugh and five building principals.

Acceptance of the concessions will reduce the district’s deficit by $370,000, and allow the millage for the operating levy being sought in November to remain at 5.95 mills, Arbaugh said.

“It has been good to work with such a professional group who understands the plight we’re in financially, and who wanted to be part of a potential solution,” Arbaugh said. “That’s why they were open to a wage freeze and major concessions in insurance including hikes in premiums.”

The contract covers the approximately 100 teachers who are members of the Keystone Local Education Association.

A statement from Jennifer Wooten, a sixth-grade math teacher at Keystone Middle School who heads the teachers union, said the group agreed to the contract concessions in light of “understanding the financial worries of our district” while considering “the value of its students and its fiscal responsibility to tax-paying citizens of the district.”

Wooten said the teachers association agreed to an additional two-year freeze — after taking one in 2012 — as well as changes to the teachers’ health care plan, even though those concessions “resulted in considerable increases in benefit costs to members.”

The statement concluded by saying “the KLEA made a conscious decision to vote in support of our kids, our community, and our future.”

Negotiations between the board and teachers had taken place since spring, Arbaugh said.

The union’s previous two-year contract — which also precluded any salary increases — expired June 30. The last pay increases the teachers received were in 2010 and 2011.

The new pact was agreed upon in August. It calls for teachers to pay a larger share of their health insurance costs by boosting premiums from 12 percent to 15 percent. The higher premium also will apply to employees taking dental and vision coverage, Arbaugh said.

The new package also removes previously imposed caps on increases in insurance costs imposed by insurers.

“If rates change and monthly premiums go from $200 to $250, there will be no cap on that increase,” Arbaugh said. “If it fluctuates, employees will have to pay it.”

So-called “spouses language” in the contract stipulates that spouses who have available medical insurance where they work cannot be covered by insurance offered through the schools. Spouses who are not working will be eligible for coverage under the health insurance offered by the schools, Arbaugh said.

“This is very similar to what’s going on in private industry,” he said.

Cuts in teachers, support staff and curriculum totaling $1 million are set to take effect in stages come January and June of next year if voters defeat the levy request in November. If approved, the levy will raise $1.4 million annually.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.


  • SniperFire

    Where shall young people and folks on fixed incomes live?

    The raises which are demanded via a new levy (don’t kid anybody – operating budgets are almost ALL wages/benefits) will bump rents in the district perhaps $30-40 per month.

    People need to understand that this tax is horribly regressive to those just getting by.

  • Pablo Jones

    So is this wage freeze like the last one the teachers took? The last one froze their step increases but still gave them a 2% wage increase each year. How about they find a different health insurance plan that doesn’t cost about $16,000 a year per teacher, over $13,000 paid by the school.

    Would it be possible for the Chronicle to actually post a pdf of the new contract?

    • SniperFire

      ‘Would it be possible for the Chronicle to actually post a pdf of the new contract?’

      The C-T and the school system are only interested in presenting a single-minded narrative – one which they hope the public will swallow.

    • jack nimble

      I have been checking the posts from time to time and it appears there is
      overwhelming apathy in this district as to how their taxes are used …..or
      the voters are well informed and have already made their decisions. The
      new contract is not on line yet…. according to the CT the administrator and
      klea rep stated there was an increase of 3% in health contributions to 15%
      and a pay freeze…. does this mean a freeze on the annual 2.75 % wage
      increase and the step increases as shown in the old contract ? Don’t get
      me wrong…..any concessions to retain your job are note worthy !

  • IAMTruth

    Why don’t you two pathetic clowns quit reliving ground hog day with every ridiculous post you write? Seriously. Where do you live? We know it’s your Mom’s basement, but in what town? It sounds like the district is trying to do what’s best for the community and actually working together. I know that people getting along for the betterment of something probably really bums you out, but get over it, and move on to the next article to gripe about something.

    • jack nimble

      you sound like an educator or administrator, are you ? why do you have a
      problem with informed opinion ? if you are not one of the above, you may
      want to go to the web site http://www.compareohioschools.org and get “INFORMED” especially the links “buckeye institute”, the state employee revision board “serb” and the ohio dept. of education “the cupp report” All
      voters should have this information available in order to cast an informed
      vote as to how their tax dollars are being spent. “CAUTION” by viewing
      these sites your ideal ology and philosophy could be put into doubt !

    • SniperFire

      You are lashing out emotionally since you have no rebuttal. I get that.

      Once you have composed yourself again, please tell us how a young person or retiree just getting by is going to find the $30-40 bucks extra a month to fund the lavish benefit spending for Keystone employees.

  • SniperFire

    ‘So-called “spouses language” in the contract stipulates that spouses who have available medical insurance where they work cannot be covered by insurance offered through the schools. ‘

    Now, eliminate ‘spouses language’ that forces taxpayers to foot the health insurance bill for significant others upon retirement. I suggest spouses seek alternatives for insurance such as Obamacare – like the private sector must do.