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Gateway teachers, officials make no progress in contract talks

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 4:06 p.m.

A meeting this week between Gateway teachers and district officials was short and unproductive, with neither side budging on salary or health care issues, sources said Tuesday.

The March 24 meeting was the second in three weeks, after the current contract expired in August and negotiations broke down in October.

“I would like to keep every teacher we have employed, and to do that, we as a district — and we as taxpayers — cannot afford to give raises at this time,” school director Chad Stubenbort, who took part in Monday's meeting, said Tuesday.

Gateway Education Association President Mike Krestar declined to comment this week on negotiations.

Gateway teachers had the third-highest average salary in Allegheny County during the 2012-13 school year, with an average salary of about $78,300, according to state Department of Education records.

According to the revised salary schedule for the last year of the expired contract, the starting teacher salary ranges from $45,766 for those with a bachelor's degree to $60,869 for those with a doctorate. Those at the top of the 18-step pay scale earn $91,532 to $99,769.

According to figures provided by the district, 44 of Gateway's 297 teachers are on the 18th step.

The countywide average salary for the last school year was $65,300.

When medical and retirement benefits are factored in, the average amount of money the district spends on a teacher is $111,000, according to personnel director Bob Reger. Reger said Gateway teachers probably are younger than the average teaching staff in the region.

“Since my arrival in 1995, we hired probably 280 of the approximate 300 (teachers),” Reger said. “We do have a younger staff here.”

Health care costs are slated to increase 5.75 percent in the 2014-15 school year, while state-mandated retirement contributions are set to increase by about 4.5 percent.

School director Dave Magill — who is on the negotiating committee for the district — declined to comment on the negotiation details but said a projected $200,000 increase in health care costs next year is a “major hurdle.”

Currently, teachers pay 6 percent of their health-insurance premiums. Their contributions are capped at $30 a month for individual plans and $65 a month for family plans, Reger said.

Retirement contributions from the district will increase about 6 percent next year, which will cost the district an extra $500,000.

“Before any raises or steps, Gateway will have to pay an additional $746,445 into (teachers) pension and health care,” Stubenbort said.

School officials said it is uncertain when the two sides will meet again. In some local school districts, recent contract negotiations have lasted years beyond the expiration of a former contract.

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