The school board on Monday approved a new three-year labor agreement with the Association of Plainfield Teachers, which represents about 1,900 certified staff members, including all district teachers.
The board passed the agreement by a 4-2 vote. Board vice president Michelle Smith and member Greg Nichols voted against the new contract.
Board member Kevin Kirberg, who received the endorsement of the teacher’s union in this year’s election, abstained, saying after the meeting that he wanted to avoid any perception of a conflict-of-interest.
Members of the teachers union passed the new contract by a vote of 894 to 536, said Karie Beck, president of the APT.
Teachers had been working without a contract since their prior contract expired June 30.
Under the new agreement, a “hard pay freeze” will be in place for this school year. There will be no step, longevity or extra duty increases. Some lane changes will be allowed, as will a 6 percent increase for teachers who have submitted a letter of intent to retire.
For the 2012-13 school year, most APT members will receive raises of up to 2.55 percent, but raises will be less for brand new teachers who move up one step. Lane changes will be allowed, and longevity payments will be frozen at the 2010-11 levels.
For the 2013-14 school year, most APT members will receive up to 1.5 percent raises. Raises will be less for new teachers moving up one step. Lane changes will be allowed, and longevity payments will be frozen at 2010-11 levels.
Like the with the Plainfield Association of Support Staff -- the union representing the non-certified staff, including secretaries and custodians -- members of APT will pay a larger share of their health insurance costs, effective Jan. 1, 2012.
District officials anticipate that the two new labor contracts could save the district as much as $4.6 million this year as the district tries to find ways to reduce a projected $9.2 million operating deficit.
The district will present an amended budget to the school board before year’s end, but has not discussed any further cost-saving measures to eliminate the remaining deficit.
District officials also project the new agreements could save as much as $23.3 million over the next three years based on projected salary and health insurance costs, compared to previous forecasted contract costs.
Beck said she thought it was a “fair settlement,” and teachers are relieved the matter has been resolved.
“We were very cognizant of the finances of the district in trying to come up with a fair deal,” Beck said.
Board secretary Eric Gallt said the contract will benefit the district in the long term and no one group can solve the deficit on its own.
Board president Roger Bonuchi said the new contract is fair to employees while trying to solve the district’s deficit.
“Our teachers, support staff and administrators did not cause our financial problems, but each of these groups is helping to fix them,” Bonuchi said. “We recognize the burden that this creates for all of our employees, and we thank everyone for their hard work and commitment to doing what is best for our students, schools and families.”
Nichols said he voted against the contract because he did not feel confident the district could afford it, and that it might result in more layoffs.
“I don’t understand how we will pay for it without sacrificing programs for our kids,” said Smith, who also voted against the contract.
The school board has not discussed whether it will lift the pay freeze for administrators and non-union, non-certified support staff, which was frozen in February 2010. Administrators have also been contributing more towards health insurance costs to save about $600,000 a year.