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Valley News Dispatch

South Butler teachers accept contract proposal ending 4-year stalemate

Chuck Biedka
| Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 10:36 p.m.
South Butler Primary School
Courtesy of South Butler School District
South Butler Primary School

South Butler School District teachers on Wednesday accepted a nonbinding arbitration panel's contract proposal, teachers union representative Brooke Witt said.

The vote ends a four-year labor dispute between about 170 teachers and the district.

School board members welcomed the vote.

If teachers had voted to reject the proposal, they and the district would have been required to start negotiations over again.

On May 21, the arbitration panel spent about eight hours in a hearing and issued a report on June 6.

The proposal was made by a three-member panel, which included one neutral member and one representing teachers and one representing the school district.

The school board accepted that proposal. The eight-year contract will be retroactive from July 1, 2014, and continue through June 30, 2022. In a statement, South Butler Education President Ian Babb said the vote was “bittersweet.”

“While I am glad that we can move forward from this point with a strategy to effectuate a real change in the district, the new contract is not what we had hoped for, nor is it an accurate reflection of what the teachers should have earned in these last four years,” Babb said.

Nevertheless he said teachers “feel our efforts will be better spent creating a new culture at the district that will start with building a relationship with the administration and recruiting pro-education candidates to run” in future school board elections.

He said the community and educators need board members who understand the value of teachers, whom he called the district's “largest asset,” and to “appropriately support” teachers “who have dedicated their lives to the students.”

District solicitor Thomas Breth said the board members are “thrilled” by the union vote. In the future the board “hopes to improve relationships between parties,” he said.

Teachers hit the picket line in mid-March and returned to the classroom in early April. The proposal will increase teacher salaries but also the amount they pay for health insurance.

• A 3 percent salary increase is included for the 2018-19 school year.

• A 3.5 percent salary increase would follow for each year through the 2021-22 school year.

• A lump sum payment of about $1.74 million would be paid to teachers for the 2015 through 2017 school years.

• Health insurance deductibles would double. For example, the in-nework deductible for families would increase from $500 to $1,000 per year.

• For the first time, a $15 co-pay would apply to occupational and physical therapy.

• The cost to teachers for the PPO health insurance plan would increase from $40 per month to $80 per month in the contract's final year.

The district said the $1.74 million lump sum payment is included in the district's $36 million overall budget this year, so it won't force a tax hike or borrowing. The salary increases for future years are “affordable and fiscally responsible,” Breth said Tuesday.

Breth said the board doesn't want to increase real estate taxes, but that decision will depend on yearly revenue and expenses. Real estate taxes generate about $15.6 million in revenue, about 43.5 percent of all revenue collected to operate the district.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

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