Teachers, board agree on contract
Riverview teachers and school board members each approved a four-year contract Monday that gives teachers average annual raises of 4.77 percent, or an average of $2,245.
The votes from both camps came at the end of a difficult school year in which teachers struck twice over the lack of progress in negotiations. This cost students 25 days of instruction, which has pushed the last student day to June 30. Graduation will remain June 20 because administrators taught high school seniors during the last strike, which was four days in April.
After more than a year of nearly 50 bargaining sessions, the sides reached a tentative agreement May 3.
At a special meeting yesterday afternoon, teachers approved the contract 86-2. Fourteen teachers were absent from the vote, union president Bob Dunkle said.
At the school board meeting last night, the school board approved the contract 5-2. John Yugovich and Wanda Young were the dissenters.
Young said she voted no because she thought it was more than the district could afford. During negotiations, the district had been offering average annual raises of 4.2 percent while the teachers had wanted nearly 5 percent.
"I thought the percentage increase that we had offered previously was more than generous," Young said.
She also noted that during this contract, as with the last one that expired June 30, 2002, the district pays for all teachers' health care premiums, except for $25 per year if a teacher wants a family dental plan.
"The cutbacks and millage increases that will be needed to pay for those increases are really serious and will surprise many people," Young said.
Full-day kindergarten, for instance, isn't in next year's budget. And in next year's budget, there are tentative plans not to replace two teachers who may retire, saving the district money but increasing class size.
Yugovich declined comment except to say, "My vote speaks for itself."
Board members Ed Saxon and Mary Kay Stein were absent.
Board president Richard DiClaudio conceded that the contract will require more money than the district had offered to spend, although the tax impact of the contract still equates to about 2.5 mills of new taxes over the life of the deal.
Riverview's tax rate is 19.1 mills and preliminarily is expected to rise to 20.3 mills next school year. One mill is equivalent to $400,000 in tax revenues for the district, which runs on a budget of $13.8 million.
Other points of the contract:
= A move from point-of-service health care to HMO for teachers. That change will save $100,000 in premiums in the first year of the contract alone.
= The early retirement incentive stipend for veteran teachers has been reduced. It used to be $40,000 upon retirement. But this year, it will be $20,000; next year it will be $15,000; the following year it will be $10,000 and the final year of the contract it will be $5,000.
Dunkle said not everything is settled for teachers.
"We did not achieve the goals we set at the beginning of this process, but we did begin to make some progress," Dunkle said. "We certainly have progress, and maybe we can convince the school directors to engage in a dialogue with us over the next few years so that we can get ahead of this for the next contract negotiations."
During negotiations, Riverview union leaders said they were frustrated with the fact that teachers made, on average, $6,000 less than the average Allegheny County teacher.
Almost half of Riverview teachers make $35,000 or less, Dunkle has said. Teachers with the same experience could make $5,000 to $10,000 more per year in neighboring districts.
Riverview teachers and school board members agreed to a four-year contract Monday retroactively effective July 1, 2002, and ending June 30, 2006.
It gives teachers average raises of: