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Canton teachers’ contract includes insurance change

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CANTON — Teachers in the Canton Central School District will contribute to their health insurance premiums for the first time under a new contract agreement reached with the district.

The four-year pact also calls for salary increases of 3.5 percent in the first year, followed by 3 percent each of the remaining three years.

Superintendent William A. Gregory said the health insurance contributions are expected to save the district nearly $300,000 over the four-year period.

“In light of both the projected savings that would not have been realized without this agreement and the ever-increasing demands and expectations placed upon our professional staff, we believe this settlement to be both fair and fiscally responsible to all concerned,” Mr. Gregory said in an email message.

The contract requires members of the Canton Central Teachers Association to contribute 3 percent of their premiums this school year, 5 percent next school year, 7.5 percent for 2014-15 and 10 percent for 2015-16.

Union members who retire after June 30, 2014, will pay a fixed dollar amount toward health insurance that’s equal to their contribution level at the time of their retirement.

Kristen J. Ames, association co-president, said the teachers’ union decided contributing to the health insurance premiums was the best way to help address the rising health care expenses.

“Clearly, health insurance premium costs have been a polarizing issue in our community,” Mrs. Ames said. “It was determined this was the best way for this to be addressed.”

This year, the district’s annual premium cost for family coverage is $19,320; two-person, $14,880, and individual, $7,440.

In past years, the union has helped reduce the district’s health care expenses by agreeing to higher copayments for medical visits and prescriptions.

The new agreement doesn’t include wage increases for coaches or extracurricular advisers.

Under the new salary schedule, the starting Step 1 salary for teachers is $38,897 this school year. That will increase to $39,600 next year, $40,100 in 2014-15 and $40,702 in 2015-16.

The board approved the contract during a special meeting this week. It replaces a contract that expired in June.

The union represents teachers, teacher assistants, teacher aides, librarians, guidance counselors and school nurses.

Mr. Gregory said the contract negotiations between the union and board members were characterized by “frank, constructive dialogue.”

The talks were guided by a recognition of significant added responsibilities required of teaching staff stemming from state mandates, as well as increased teaching loads and larger class sizes, he said.

“We believe that the subsequent negotiated agreement successfully balances the interests of all our educational community’s stakeholders,” Mr. Gregory said.

Explaining the savings, he said the district would be obliged to pay salary step increases to the teachers as required by the state’s Triborough Agreement, which continues the terms of any expired contract until a new agreement supersedes it. Over the next four years, those legally mandated step increases are projected to cost $575,000.

The salary increases in the new contract will cost an additional $149,000 over that same period.

The health insurance premium contributions will return an estimated $445,000 over the life of the contract, resulting in a net savings of nearly $300,000, Mr. Gregory said.

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