August 19, 2013—Teachers, administrators and district leaders have agreed on new employment contracts that extend through 2016—agreements that include both salary increases and elimination of the district’s costliest health insurance plan.
The Glens Falls City Schools Board of Education approved a four-year contract with the Glens Falls Teachers Association and a three-year contract with the Glens Falls Administrators Association on June 24, capping a months-long negotiation process in which all sides offered concessions.
One of the biggest changes to the labor agreements is the elimination of the district’s Matrix health care plan, for which premium payments increased by almost 20 percent in each of the past two years.
“Transitioning our employees and retirees to lower-cost health insurance plans should save the district a significant amount of money going forward,” said Superintendent Paul Jenkins. “Our business office is estimating a $87,500 savings next year. This is something we’ve been discussing for several years, and the teachers’ and administrators’ agreement demonstrates a cooperative effort to reduce costs across the board.”
“The GFTA during negotiations wanted to focus on improving the professional environment with a desire for meaningful professional development in a fiscally sustainable manner,” said Association President Brandon Lis. “The current financial realities are all too clear to everyone in the community. Each of us is sharing in this difficult economic time, and we clearly understand that any new contract must be financially sustainable by our district, or the result would be cuts to programs and staff, both of which would have a negative impact on student achievement and the school environment. The desire for meaningful professional development helps to achieve smooth implementation of the new APPR teacher evaluations and increase the effectiveness of all who are engaged in the teaching-learning process.”
The teachers’ contract is retroactive to July 2012, and includes only step raises for 2012-13 and the first half of 2013-14. In January of 2014, salaries will increase by 0.355 percent over step, and the Matrix health care plan will no longer be offered to employees or retirees. Teachers will receive step increases plus 0.71 percent raises in each of the last two years of the contract, along with paying 1.5 percent more toward the cost of health insurance premiums by the end of the agreement. Teachers will pay 18 percent of their health insurance premiums by 2016.
The administrators’ contract began on July 1 of this year, and covers principals, assistant principals and some directors. These employees will increase their share of health insurance premium payments to a total of 21.5 percent by the end of the contract. Administrators also decided to eliminate the Matrix option for health insurance. Salaries will increase by 1.25 percent in the first year of the agreement, 2.5 percent in the second year, and 2.75 percent in the third year.
Plans are underway in the district office to assist employees and retirees in their shift from the Matrix option to one of several other health insurance options available.
“Active employees have four other plans to choose from, including PPO plans from Empire and MVP,” said interim business director Margaret Foote. Several options are available for retirees, including Senior Blue and a Medicare PPO from Blue Shield of NENY, she continued.
Information on other available plans will be sent to affected employees and retirees shortly, allowing a four-month window for enrollment in another plan in place of Matrix.
“In many cases, employees who have switched to another plan say they like their new coverage better than Matrix,” said district treasurer Janice Casey, who handles health insurance enrollment for the district. “Individuals are sure to have different experiences based on their situations, but the overall response we’ve heard so far has been fairly positive.”
The district continues to negotiate with secretaries and support staff bargaining units, whose contracts expired in June of 2012, and June of 2013, respectively. Several members of the district’s leadership team took salary freezes within their individual contracts, including the superintendent, curriculum director, and communications specialist.
“Education is a people-centered business, and our collective focus is on maintaining the highest-quality educational program for our students,” said Superintendent Paul Jenkins.