New Castle News

New Castle

April 12, 2012

New Castle teachers have new contract

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle’s teachers have a new contract.

Wednesday night, the board unanimously ratified a four-year agreement between the district and the New Castle Federation of Teachers. That teachers’ union has 260 members.

While the pact gives teachers annual raises, the educators settled for half the amount in each of the four years that they had received in their previous contract. That six-year pact expired Aug. 31 and the teachers have been working under its terms since then.

Superintendent George J. Gabriel said the main issues in the negotiations were salaries and health care benefits.

Don Runyon, union president, publicly thanked the board and superintendent at Wednesday night’s meeting for their fairness in the final outcome.

“We got a fair and equitable deal and we got an almost-unanimous union vote,” he said, noting the teachers understand the hard economic times.

The union called a meeting for April 4. Runyon had sent copies of the proposed contract changes to all members two days before that. After review and discussion, the 157 who attended voted 152 to 5 to ratify.

While most other districts are asking teachers to take wage freezes, “we didn’t feel a wage freeze was warranted with the fund balance the district has,” Runyon said.

Joe Ambrosini, the district business manager, said the fund balance at the end of the 2010-11 school year was between $12 million and $13 million.

“We were willing to meet halfway with the raises and we considered that to be acceptable,” Runyon said, adding that was the sticking point in negotiations for a long time.

“We wanted something,” he said of the teachers. “We understand about the times, but we were not willing to take a zero.”

Changes to the health care plan include more cuts on the teachers’ side, Runyon pointed out, because “it was the right time. We hadn’t had a change in seven years.”

Their deductible doubled, from $100 single and $200 family coverage to $200 for single and $400 for family, he said.

The emergency room fee also doubled, and prescription fees increased.

“The district is able to save some money in those areas,” Runyon explained.

In return, the teachers were able to keep the same co-pay for physician visits, he said. Other pluses for the teachers were an extra bereavement day and extra personal days.

“Overall, based on the comments that we heard from the teachers over the holiday weekend, they are very satisfied,” he said.

“We’re very happy that the negotiation process is complete, and both parties are very happy with the outcome,” Gabriel said after Wednesday night’s meeting.

“As a district, administrators and board, we’ve been fiscally responsible,” he said, adding, “we’re aware of the economic situation and we’ve taken that into consideration.”

(Contact Debbie Wachter at (724) 654-6651, extension 631.)

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