Board approves TCU teacher contract


The Tri-City United School board got over one of its biggest hurdles since its consolidation when it approved its first teacher contract on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
Superintendent Matt Helgerson told the board he was happy this piece of the consolidation of the Montgomery-Lonsdale and Le Center School Districts was complete. 
When two districts consolidate, new labor agreements must be negotiated for all employee groups. And wages and benefits of employees account for 80 percent of a school district’s general fund expenditures. 
When two districts consolidate, contracts must bring the pay scales for the two teacher groups inline with one another. For M-L and Le Center’s case, that meant Le Center’s teachers would receive an increase because, on average, their salaries were lower. According to information provided prior to the merger, the average salary and benefits for a M-L teacher in 2010-11 was $61,929. For Le Center, that amount was $55,825, for a difference of $6,104. 
That figure also does not include the fact that Le Center was a Quality Compensation (Q-Comp) School. Q-Comp is the state's merit pay program that allows local districts and exclusive representatives of the teachers to design a plan that meets the five components of the law. Under the plan, teachers are paid a $1,060 annual bonus, in part, for increases on student test results.
Until the consolidation, the M-L District did not participate in the plan. This year, the state approved the TCU District’s application for the Q-Comp program.
To help bring up the Le Center teachers pay to that of their M-L counterparts, Helgerson said contract negotiations looked to negotiate the first year, 2011-12  separately.
“We weren’t going to put space between them (Le Center and M-L teachers),” he said.
The differential of $6,104 per teacher and the pay differences for administrative and support staff will also make it difficult to realize net savings in the first year of TCU’s existence, Helgerson said. For Le Center’s 37 teachers alone, the amount equals $225,848 in added expense to the TCU District. Add on the additional contract increases, mostly due to insurance, and the amount balloons to $406,603 related to the consolidation.
When all was said and done, the contract ended with teachers receiving a 7.78 percent increase over two years. That percent includes salary and insurance increases and fringe benefits. Helgerson said insurance increases were the biggest portion of the contract.
He said the final contract involved a lot of give and take from both sides. Two things the teachers lost were dental insurance and vision reimbursement of $300. At one point negotiations involved a mediator to help negotiate insurance language and caps on insurance amounts.
Helgerson said the district still needs to negotiate contracts for the secretary and paraprofessional groups, as well as the principals, which he expects to happen in January. 

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