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Williamsville teachers will pay more for health care but will also see top pay jump to more than $80,000 in a few years under a pact approved by the School Board Friday in a 6-0 vote.

The agreement increases the district's contribution to a health care trust set up for teachers by $370,000 -- or about 10 percent -- for a total of about $4 million.

But Thomas M. Ramming, the district's assistant superintendent for human resources, said the increase was half of what the cost to the district would have been if it was fully funding teacher health insurance.

Health care costs are set to jump by about 20 percent in January, he said. The trust ensures that the district pays only half of that, with the teachers picking up the rest, he said.

The new pact extends the teacher contract three years, to the 2005-06 year, with raises averaging 2.4 a year or just under 10 percent for the agreement's lifetime.

Under the pact, pay for a teacher at the top of the scale rises from $73,450 a year to $80,625 by the agreement's end.

A beginning teacher with a master's degree will see pay rise from the current $35,800 to $39,119.

"I think it's a great agreement," Ramming said. "It allows us to know what our costs will be."

Even with the raises automatically given to teachers as they move up the pay steps, the total increase to the district for raises and the increase in health costs should be only between 3 percent and 4 percent, Ramming said.

Williamsville actually signed off on a contract with teachers just last year, agreeing to start the benefit fund for teachers as a way of controlling its health care costs.

It was set to expire in 2003. But Ramming said the teachers union asked that talks be reopened because teachers were worried the rapid rise in health care costs would deplete the trust.

The district agreed in return for negotiating future raises, Ramming said.

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