The Lower Merion School District Board of School Directors voted unanimously Monday night to approve a collective bargaining agreement with Lower Merion Education Association after months of negotiations. The current contract expired at the end of June, and since then, teachers and professional staff have been working under the terms of the previous agreement. The LMEA approved the contract agreement on Oct. 29.
The new contract calls for a 0.25 percent salary increase for all faculty/staff except those at the top salary tier in Years 1 and 2, and no percentage increase in Year 3, according to Superintendent Christopher McGinley. Staff members at the top tier will get a 2.6 percent increase in Year 1, a 2.2 percent increase in Year 2, and a 1.4 percent increase in Year 3.
At the same time, health care contributions, currently at 1.2 percent, will increase to 1.8 percent in Year 1, 2 percent in Year 2, and 2.2 percent in Year 3, McGinley said.
McGinley said both the school district and the LMEA have agreed to “move the school district toward a self-insured health care consortium arrangement,” in an effort to help stabilize health care costs in the future, McGinley said.
“Overall, this is a contract that allows for the equivalent of a cost of living increase for members of the LMEA,” McGinley said. “… We see this agreement as one that allows us to maintain the quality of educational experiences for students, and is fair to the staff and in keeping with current economic conditions.”
Currently, school district expenditures for salary and benefits are about $154 million, representing 72 percent of the district’s $212 million budget. The new contract, McGinley said, was developed to remain within the parameters approved in the 2013 budget.
Over the length of the new contract, the school district will yield an additional $900,000, which will help to defray the cost of health care, McGinley said.
“We believe this is a fair and responsible settlement,” LMEA President Chris SantaMaria told the board.
The board voted unanimously to the contract agreement, 7-0, with board member Gary Friedlander abstaining and Jerry Novick absent.
The previous agreement, a two-year deal, featured 1.2 percent and 1.4 percent raises for staff in 2010-11 and 2011-12. All but 0.2 percent of each of those raises was applied to employee contributions to health care costs.