ST. JOHN — Teachers and administrators in the Lake Central Schools have gotten an early Christmas present in the form of raises ranging from $1,000 to $1,900.
Unfortunately, the Grinch is going to take some of that back in the form of an increase in the employee contribution toward the health insurance plan.
The School Board voted recently to approve the contract with the Lake Central Teachers Association granting all administrators and teachers pay increases totaling $1,000 retroactive to Sept. 1. In addition, the starting salary for teachers was increased from $41,100 a year to $42,200.
Teachers who have been with the district at least since 2011, when pay was frozen because of financial struggles, will receive an additional $900 boost in their pay. Business Services Director Rob James said the total cost of the pay package will be about $700,000.
“The state has given us more options on how to compensate teachers, and this is one of the things we are trying to do to retain teachers and maintain the academic standards of the district,” James said. “Our negotiations with the union went very smoothly, as it usually does, and I appreciate the working relationship of the union and the administration.”
Superintendent Larry Veracco said, “I am excited that our teachers’ leaders and the administration are taking advantage of the flexibility given to us by the state to give larger raises to teachers at lower salary levels. We need to raise the salaries of our dedicated staff, and we have some ground to make up for the meager raises over the past few years.
“We appreciate the patience of our teachers and support staff and are proud to report they have always put forth their best effort to support our students despite the lack of financial support from the state,” Veracco said.
Teachers union President Nick Meyers said, “I thought the negotiations went pretty well. The teachers and the administration had the same goals. The only problem was getting the wording right so the state would accept it. We knew they didn’t have a lot of money to work with until the referendum money comes in, so we hammered out a deal that I thought was pretty good.”
Veracco announced at the meeting that for the first time in about seven years the employee contribution to the health insurance will be increased because of a large number of claims during the past year. James said the trend nationally has been for annual increases of 12 percent or more in health insurance costs, but the district and the employees have kept the costs steady.
James couldn’t say how much of the raises would be eaten by the increase in the health insurance premium because of the different levels of coverage, but Meyers said some people will not see an increase in their pay.
“But it was something that had to happen,” Meyers said of the increase in employee cost for the coverage.
James said the back pay for those whose pay will increase will appear in their first paycheck in December. The new contract with the classified employees will be presented to the board in December. If approved, it will take effect in January.