This story was amended at 8:30 a.m., Jan. 16.
The School Committee approved a new contract for North Kingstown teachers Tuesday night, after more than a year of negotiations and five months after the old contract expired.
The vote was 6-0. John Boscardin was absent.
“I feel like we got a lot achieved,” said School Committee Chairwoman Kim Page. “We went in with many many different things we were trying to negotiate. It was a very respectful process and that I really appreciate. We did get a good savings.… I appreciate the process, I appreciate the time.”
“We’re not thrilled, but we’re going to live with it,” said Kevin Dubois, head of the teachers union. Union members approved the contract in a vote Friday.
The contract provides wage increases of .5 percent in 2014, 1 percent in 2015, and 1.5 percent in 2016. It also reorganizes health care to a “health savings account” model and revises how sick days are calculated.
The changes in health care coverage give the district a savings of $1.3 million, with no savings the first year (the current year), and the whole of the savings over the second and third years.
The district savings over the contract is approximately $500,000, taking into account the salary increases.
“We all were kind of discussing it, on our own sides, and we said, ‘What can we do to stave off that additional cost to everybody?’” said Dubois, referring to potential tax penalties that kick in under the Affordable Care Act if premiums go too high.
“We saw that, depending on the model that you pick … you could get a savings off the premium that it would knock it back down several thousand dollars,” he said. “We thought it was to everybody’s benefit to try to do that. To try to keep the costs inhouse, in our own pockets and our own budget, rather than having it go to taxes on the federal level.”
"The teachers are still responsible for 20 percent co-share of the premium plus half of the deductible ($1,000 individual/$2,000 family)," said Finance Director Mary King, via email. "The 20 percent co-share will go down because the premiums are reduced by approximately 21 percent."
An individual will pay approximately $265 less and a family would pay approximately $675 less, based on estimated premiums starting July 1.
"After the deductibles are met, the employee will incur no further costs on their healthcare in most instances," said King.
“We’re going to have a lot of sessions with our members and the administration to discuss how it all works,” he said. “I think it will be ok once people understand how it all works.”
Another change in the contract relates to the accumulation of sick day. Instead of having different types of sick days, now “a sick day is a sick day.” The new contract caps the number of sick days a teacher can acrue to 115 total days over the course of a career.
The other changes were in language, and many of them – such as about the teacher evaluations – had been worked out many months ago, Dubois said.
While the contract may not have been everything he’d wanted, Dubois said the administration had been good to work with.
Several School Committeeman members praised both the union and the administration for their diligence.
Bob Jones praised the union for its professionalism in working without a contract.
“When parents found out the contract ran out last summer … the educational process went on without a beat,” he said. “Thanks for setting and showing that example of professionalism.”