After months of negotiations, on Monday, Nov. 5, the Reeths-Puffer School board approved the contract between the board and the Reeths-Puffer Education Association (R-PEA) which represents the teaching staff.
The R-PEA had tentatively agreed to the contact on Oct. 23.
The previous contract ran from Sept. 1, 2010-Aug. 31, 2012. The R-PEA voted to ratify the newest contract on Friday, Nov. 2.
According to Reeths-Puffer Superintendent Steve Edwards, the key financial changes are that the teacher’s will not receive a raise in either the 2012-13 or 2013-14 school years. They will also not receive a step raise in the 2012-13 year and will move forward one step in 2013-14.
Insurance caps will be in place limiting the district’s contribution in the area of health care to that of the state recommended cap of $15,000 per family, $11,000 per double and $5,500 for single subscribers.
Each member of the teacher’s union will receive an additional $200 for classroom supplies, activities or other educational opportunities during the 2012-13 school year. That amount will be prorated for less than full-time teachers.
Bev Hulbert, R-PEA president, said that the R-P School District and the teachers of Reeths-Puffer Schools have always worked together in a positive manner.
“Given the catastrophic funding decreases caused by the state’s reallocation of education dollars to other areas, sacrifices had to be made by R-P teachers,” Hulbert said.
According to Hulbert, the teachers and administration worked diligently to negotiate the best contract it could to support the students in the community even though school funding has been cut.
Both the administration and the teachers expressed concern about the future of the state’s public school system, the future of the teaching profession and the quality and vitality of education the students will receive if the current trends continue.
“As always, we put students first,” Edwards stated. “We’re pleased to reach an agreement with our teachers so we can continue to focus on our primary goal, which is the work we do together to improve student achievement.”
Aside from the district’s proposed changes, the state reformed the Michigan Public School Retirement System (MPSERS) in September which now requires public school employees to pay more for their pensions and ended state-provided health coverage in retirement for new hires.
According to michigan.gov, the rate that schools pay in employee retirement costs has doubled since 2002, and was slated to grow to 35 percent of payroll costs by 2016. The new law makes several changes including increasing employee contributions as well as prefunding retiree health care beginning in FY 2012-13, whereby the state will now be setting aside money to meet the debt when it comes due in the future.
New school employees now receive $2,000 deposited into a health reimbursement account once eligibility criteria are met, and also receive up to 2 percent in matching contributions into a 401 (k) account that can be used toward the purchase of retiree health care, or for any other purpose. This replaces fully subsidized retiree health care premiums. It also allows existing members to opt out of retiree health care coverage whereby those employees’ 3 percent retiree health contributions made to date would be credited to their 401 (k) account.
According to Governor Rick Snyder, the financial relief to school districts is substantial, capping the employer contribution rate at current levels, requiring an appropriation from the School Aid Fund to pay for any excess liabilities above the amount.