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Armstrong School District, union agree on new contract

| Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Don't look now, but Armstrong School District just managed to solve another potentially problematic issue without any controversy, posturing or long-winded diatribes — none at public meetings, at least.

ASD has amicably reached an agreement with the Armstrong Education Association (AEA) to establish a new contract for teachers and staff for the years 2014 through 2016.

The new contract provides for no increase to the salary schedule for the 2014-15 school year and just a one percent increase for 2015-16.

During a regular meeting Monday evening, Superintendent Stan Chapp expressed gratitude to the members of the AEA who he said put the district's dire financial needs ahead of their own.

“As you know, school districts have not had very many (funding) increases over the past three years,” said Chapp. “In fact, none of the school districts across the state have. So we're very proud to come to an agreement.”

Although the district's 2013-14 budget won't be finalized until June, business manager John Zenone said at a previous meeting that as state funding dwindles to a trickle and expenses grow exponentially, next year's budget of $97.5 million is up $11.5 million from this year.

Employee salaries and benefits make up 64 percent of the district's expenses, according to Zenone.

But as part of the newly approved contract, AEA also has agreed to move the district from the Highmark PPO benefits plan to the Highmark Qualified High Deductible plan, which will yield savings to ASD.

The change will be voluntary for employees during the final year of the existing contract but will be fully implemented when the new contract takes effect in 2014.

Chapp said this gesture will go a long way toward building ASD's fiscal stability in the coming years.

“This is a significant change for our staff members who are looking to work with the community and help the school district as much as they possibly can,” said Chapp.

“We look to save around $3 million in premiums cost over the course of the next several years.”

Board president Joe Close also praised the generosity of the AEA.

“It does really help the district and we're really proud of our staff that they're willing to help us in these times,” said Close.

“Truly, we have a great staff we employ here and we're thankful we have those people. I can't thank them enough.”

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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