Teachers, board OK new contract: 3.2% average salary hike helps offset health costs

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. teachers will receive an average 3.2 percent salary increase this year after school board members approved a two-year contract with the Columbus Educators Association.

In the second year, the raises will average about 2.29 percent, said Superintendent Jim Roberts.

The school board Wednesday also approved a 2 percent annual raise for support staff and administrators.

This year’s increase is retroactive to the beginning of the school year, and BCSC officials say they hope to provide the back pay no later than the day after Thanksgiving.

Higher compensation is necessary to both hire and retain qualified educators, Roberts said.

Although teachers received raises of about 2 percent the previous two years, that’s not the entire story, Roberts said.

When increasing health insurance premiums and deductibles are figured in, those raises have averaged about 1.88 percent, Roberts said.

In response, modifications have been made that will limit the premium increase to about 2 percent in 2018. Without those changes, out-of-pocket expenses would have gone up at least 13 percent, Roberts said.

Insurance changes involve creating an additional tier of coverage, a stronger reliance on wellness and prevention, advocating 90-day supplies of prescriptions, and new designations of in-network and out-of-network providers.

Just three weeks after formal contract negotiations began, a tentative agreement was reached on Oct. 6, and the teacher’s union approved it by a vote of 324-34 last week, Roberts said.

In past years, restrictions have been in place that permitted only across-the-board salary and benefit increases to all teachers.

However, both state lawmakers and the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board allowed BCSC to develop a new pay scale that permits different levels of raises this year.

Besides a teacher’s experience, new steps will allows larger salaries for those who have a post-graduate degree, maintain excellent attendance and receive higher evaluations.

Teachers will receive an additional $1,200 for each step they reach on the pay scale.

BCSC will be operating on a $115 million budget next year, which represents a 2 percent increase over this year due primarily to the employee raises.

But the tax rate should remain flat because a significant amount of debt will come off the books next year, including the district’s pension bond, school officials said in September.

Highlights of the agreement

The following are highlights of the two-year contract approved by both the Columbus Educators Association and the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

  • Starting teacher salary raised from $36,720 to $38,750, a 5.5 percent increase.
  • A 32-step pay scale is established that permits a $1,200 raise for each step achieved. The scale has a top-level pay of $75,950.
  • Step criteria include experience and post-graduate degree during the 2017-2018 school year.
  • In the 2018-2019 school year, steps will include evaluations and attendance.
  • 2 percent raises will be provided to administrators and support staff each year of the contract.
  • Health insurance plan changes will prevent what would have been a 13 percent increase in premiums to increase only 2 percent.
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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.