SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake Central School District has come to terms on a new, three-year contract with the union representing most of its non-teaching staff.
The district's Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a memorandum of understanding with Civil Service Employees Association Local 817 Unit 6860. The union represents roughly 80 people: custodians, bus drivers, secretaries, teaching aides, food service workers, maintenance and clerical workers.
The deal gives the employees 3 percent salary increases in each year of the agreement, retroactive to July 1 of this year, when their last contract expired. It also requires all current members of the union, and future members eligible for benefits, to switch to a health insurance plan that costs the district less money than its current plan.
"We gave up some money on the salary in exchange for a cheaper health insurance plan," Superintendent Gerald Goldman said Thursday. "It's in the plus column for us."
The district gets its health insurance as part of a consortium that includes more than a half dozen other schools around the region.
Under the current "Classic Blue" plan from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, the premium for family coverage costs the district $20,568, according to Dan Bower, the district's assistant superintendent for business. The family premium for the less costly plan, a PPO-J plan provided by Excellus, will be $18,720, Bower said.
CSEA members will also have to contribute to the cost of their own health insurance: 2 percent of the premium in year one of the contract, 2.25 percent year two and 2.5 percent in year three. Previously, they had contributed a fixed dollar amount. Switching to a percentage contribution has been a priority for school officials in their union negotiations this year, as they believe it's a more fair way to keep pace with the ever-increasing cost of benefits.
"In the short term, we're going to get some immediate savings, and in the long term, this will help us rein in the costs a little bit," Bower said. "Based on projections that other consortiums have done in switching to the PPO-J plan, they've been able to keep their premiums flat. We're hoping to experience the same thing."
Matt Mayville, the union's president, said the contract was ratified by a 57-1 vote last week. He said it's a good deal for the district and the union.
"We started on this months ago, we went back and forth, and I think the outcome is fair for both sides," said Mayville, the senior custodian at Saranac Lake High School. "We came to a happy medium."
The union reviewed and compared the two health insurance plans and found there were no major concerns with switching to the lower cost plan, Mayville said. He said there was some initial reluctance among his members about giving up their fixed-dollar-amount health insurance contributions, "but we understand that (the district's) increases go by percentage.
"So I think with the percentages that we got to, the lower amount, I think it was fair for my members," Mayville said.
The district now has new contracts with all of its employees except the Saranac Lake Teachers' Association, which represents roughly 190 teachers and teaching assistants. Both sides recently declared an impasse in negotiations and have requested the assistance of a mediator from the state Public Employment Relations Board.
In August, the school board approved a new, three-year contract with the union representing its six administrators. It gives them incentives - namely higher annual pay hikes and smaller health insurance contributions - if they switch to the less costly health insurance plan. The administrators will also contribute a percentage of their health insurance premiums instead of a fixed dollar amount.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.