Williamsville teachers have a new contract that includes salary raises – but also an increase of their contributions to health insurance.
The School Board Tuesday unanimously approved the four-year pact, the result of 11 months of talks and 17 meetings between negotiating teams for the district and Williamsville Teachers Association.
"This is a fiscally responsible contract that I think shows and represents how tirelessly our teachers work to provide the best education for our students," Board President Shawn Lemay said after the vote. "Kudos to both sides, the district and the teachers union, for coming together like this."
The union held a ratification vote Monday, and 96 percent of the bargaining unit's nearly 900 members voted in favor of the deal.
Teachers at the top step of the district's salary schedule will receive 1.58 percent raises – about $1,500 – in each of the four years. Teachers on the remaining 15 steps will receive a one-time $700 raise in the first year only. Scheduled step increases are based on an employee’s years of experience and credentials.
Teachers agreed to increase their health insurance contributions from 10.5 percent to 11 percent in the contract's first year. That percentage jumps to 12.5 percent for the three remaining years. The union and district agreed to conduct a joint study on health insurance to explore more affordable options including the possibility of changing healthcare providers.
Teachers will get four fewer paid leave days per year and extend their workday by 25 minutes.
Teachers union president Michelle Licht, in a statement, said the contract "demonstrates our members' willingness to do what they can to ensure the financial stability of our district."
The deal is expected to add about $1 million to the district's annual budget, which for 2017-18 totaled $186.1 million.
The agreement comes three months after Superintendent Scott Martzloff and the teachers union pledged to mend fences after three years of turmoil.
"I think it's another positive sign," Martzloff said after the vote. "We've been working well together. We've been collaborating. We've worked hard to open the lines of communication."
Mark Mecca, the only board member to comment before the vote, thanked both sides for reaching an amicable agreement. All nine School Board members were elected with the union's endorsement, but Lemay said the new contract is comparable to previous contracts approved by members who did not have the union's endorsement.
"I don't think being endorsed by the WTA makes any difference here," he said.
The new agreement is effective retroactively, as of Sept. 1, 2017, and expires Aug. 31, 2021. The previous contract expired Aug. 31.