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District 156 contract changes health insurance set-up, includes raises

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 4:55 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 7, 2014 11:15 p.m. CDT

McHENRY – The two-year contract approved this week by the District 156 school board and teachers union will reduce the district's costs over the length of the contract, school and union officials said.

The agreement, the final language of which is still being drafted by attorneys and isn't available to the public yet, was the result of nine months of negotiations that took the district to the brink of a strike.

"Based on the economic times, it's a fair contract," Superintendent Mike Roberts said. "There was give and take by everybody."

Much of the impasse centered around contributions to health insurance and the salary schedule used to determine teacher pay based on experience and education.

Contracts often give teachers raises one of three ways.

They include a step increase along the schedule, which gives teachers credit for additional years of service; an increase to the base salary, often considered a cost-of-living increase that moves everyone on the salary schedule at the same rate; or both.

Much of the board's negotiations have focused on tying raises and cost increases to the rate of inflation, which also determines how much the district can increase its levy by.

Under the approved contract, teachers will receive a 1.7 percent raise – a number based on the rate of inflation – for the 2013-14 school year but not take a step on the experience side of the district's salary schedule, according to a joint statement from the board and union.

The following school year, the salaries will revert to the pre-contract levels and teachers will get a step on the salary schedule, the statement said.

There will be no increase to the base salary either year.

The contract also makes changes to the way health insurance is handled, Roberts said.

Instead of the district covering a percentage of health care premiums, it will convert what it's currently contributing into stipends, he said. The teachers can then use those stipends to pick the type of insurance they want in terms of premiums and deductibles.

If the cost of the premium is less than the stipend, the excess will go into an account that the teacher can use for health expenses or to build up savings for future premiums, Roberts said.

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