OV district teachers agree to new contract

BRANDON — The first district-wide teacher contract that covers the eight schools in the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union has been ratified.
On Feb. 13, Rutland Northeast Education Association members overwhelmingly approved a new collective bargaining agreement for the 171 teachers employed by the Otter Valley Unified Union School District, the Barstow Unified Union School District, and the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union.
The Otter Valley Unified Union School Board ratified the agreement at a meeting the same day. The Barstow and RNeSU boards are expected to ratify the agreement during the week of Feb. 26 following the winter school break.
The two new unified union districts began operating RNeSU schools on July 1, 2017.
The prior contract was between the eight individual school districts in the RNeSU and the associations representing teachers employed by those districts.
RNeSU Superintendent Jeanne Collins said in a statement Monday that both sides worked hard to come to this agreement.
“I am very pleased to be ratifying this contract,” she said. “The board and the teachers worked hard to develop a fair deal for teachers and taxpayers. I am also pleased to get back to the focus of teaching children, which is what we do best. Our teachers are excellent and all of us benefit when they are in front of students.”
The new contract comes after over a year of negotiation.
Under the new contract, all teachers will receive a salary increase of approximately 1.7 percent retroactive to July 1, 2017. The minimum salary for a newly hired teacher increases from $38,263 to $38,912. The maximum salary for any teacher increases from $76,526 to $77,824. In addition, teachers who are eligible to advance a step on the salary schedule (approximately 86 teachers) will receive an additional increase of $1,556.
There was also a significant change in the new contract involving health insurance benefits. For the past couple decades, the principal health insurance plan available to teachers was the Dual Option Plan provided by the Vermont Education Health Initiative (VEHI). During fiscal year 2017 and continuing until Dec. 31, 2017, teachers paid 13.25 percent of the premium cost of this plan and the districts paid the balance, 86.75 percent. Teachers paid all out of pocket charges such as deductibles and co-pays with costs generally averaging $400 per year for teachers enrolled in a single person plan, $800 per year for those enrolled in a two-person plan and $1,200 per year for those electing family coverage.
Under the new contract, commencing Jan. 1, 2018, all teachers are enrolled in one of four new plans offered by VEHI. While teachers were free to select any of the four plans, the districts’ obligation for premium payments is limited to 80 percent of the cost of the CDHP Gold Plan. In FY 2017, the districts paid approximately $20,640 in premium cost for an employee enrolled in a family plan ($23,792 x 86.75 percent). The annual premium for family coverage under the CDHP Gold Plan as of Jan. 1, 2018, is $17,394, with the districts being obligated to pay $13,915 ($17,394 x 80 percent).
All the new VEHI plans have out-of-pocket charges that are significantly higher than those under the Dual Option Plan. Employees with single and two-person coverage will continue to be obligated to pay the initial out-of-pocket expenses up to the amounts previously paid $400 and $800. Employees with family coverage will pay the first $1,000. The districts will be obligated to pay any additional out-of-pocket expenses up to the maximum amounts for the CDHP Gold Plan. The maximum out-of-pocket expense for a family is $5,000, with employees paying the first $1,000.
The new contract is only for a one-year term that ends on June 30, 2018. For this reason, the boards and RNEA plan to commence negotiation of a successor agreement promptly following ratification of the agreement by BUU and RNESU.

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