Saline teachers agree to $1.5 million in concessions
The Saline Board of Education agreed to teacher union concessions of about $1.5 million Tuesday night as the Saline Area Schools looks for ways to close a projected $5.95 million shortfall in its about $64 million operating budget.
The Board of Education voted 5-1 for a tentative agreement for the final year of the Saline Teacher’s Association 3-year contract, which includes returning 5.5 days of pay to the district based on the 2011-2012 pay scale. A 2.5-percent increase was included in the contract for the about 450 teachers in the district.
The agreement also requires teachers to pay 10 percent of their insurance premium and 10 percent of their dental and vision insurance costs.
For those teachers with full family medical insurance, it will cost them about $1,630 for their “Medical Option 1” health insurance per year.
For those teachers who have dental and vision insurance, it will cost them about $131 per year.
The school board also approved sending layoff notices to 68 teachers, though officials said that about 50 of those teachers are expected to keep their jobs during the next school year.
At this point, the district has “roughly cut the deficit in half,” said Tom Wall, assistant superintendent for business services.
“We have a binding agreement contract with the SEA and they didn’t have to come back to us,” said Board President Chuck Lesch, who added, “It would have been nice to get more.”
Staff costs comprise about 85 percent of the budget with 77 percent of the costs going to teachers and 16 percent to support services, Saline Superintendent of Schools Scot Graden said previously.
Board member Amy Cattell said, “I’ve run many scenarios in my mind and I look at what’s going on everywhere. I trust the parties involved in the negotiations. I really feel everyone’s committed to do what’s best for the kids.”
The lone no vote was Board Member Lisa Slawson, who said she appreciated the efforts but “for me, the biggest problem is the fund balance.” Trustee David Friese was absent.
Earlier this month, the projected fund balance was $2.9 million, and it’s anticipated that some of that money will be used to close the budget gap.
Before the vote, resident after resident appealed to the board to reject the agreement and push for more teacher concessions.
Dave Zimmer of York Township said, the “$1.3 million concessions are totally inadequate.” He suggested that teacher compensation be reduced 15 percent across the board.
“This won’t balance the budget, and it’ll hurt the teachers,” said Judy McCoy, who also suggested a “small reduction of compensation across the board,” to avoid layoffs. After the vote, she told the board she was disappointed and called the agreement “a very bad deal.”
Graden said similar to last year, the 68 teachers who were hired after August 2004 would receive layoff notices.
“These are the least senior staff,” he said.
However, once all the budget numbers are finalized, it’s expected that about 50 teachers will be called back to work, while between 18 and 20 teachers positions would be reduced.
Board member Todd Carter said that there was an “opportunity on the table” during the negotiations that would have avoided the layoffs, but it was not accepted.
Following the vote, outgoing SEA Union President Tim Heim said even though the teachers had “become funding agents” for the district with the concessions, they were being labeled as "villains" by residents who spoke. He said that's confusing.
However, resident John Waterman offered a different opinion. “This was not an easy vote,” he said. “The teachers didn’t have to come forward; they didn’t have to give back but they did.”
In addition, the board is looking at about 36 different deficit-elimination scenarios that include fees for sports and changes in busing. They will discuss those scenarios Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at Liberty School in a second community forum.
Graden said previously that the district is looking at making athletics self-funded and adjusting the district’s busing.
Lisa Allmendinger is a reporter with AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more Saline stories, visit our Saline page.