After 18 months of repeatedly coming to the table only to walk away again, the Akron school board and teachers union have struck a labor deal.
Both sides have agreed to accept the recommendations of an arbitrator called in to reconcile various issues.
“The fact finder did a very elegant job of splitting the issues,” said Jason Haas, president of the Akron school board. “She really came down the middle.”
“We’re just thrilled that it’s over,” said Pat Shipe, president of the Akron Education Association.
The major points of the pact include a salary increase for the more than 2,000 members of the Akron Education Association. That increase, estimated at less than $5 million per year, is offset by $21.6 million in health insurance concessions as rates and plans have doubled in the three-year contract.
The two parties began negotiating in March 2012 — three months before the contract expired.
By the time a fact finder was called in, the district’s financial outlook had flipped from red to black. Additional revenue from a successful 7.9-mill levy last year and a favorable state budget approved this summer were considered as the fact finder weighed salary increases and fringe benefits. The fact finder noted in some instances, including the denial of increases in longevity pay, that the board must still be frugal despite recent good news.
The fact finder compared Akron schools’ teacher salaries and other expenditures with 14 other urban schools to make the recommendations that were overwhelmingly ratified by the teachers union on Sunday and unanimously approved by the board on Monday.
At an average base salary of $34,378, Akron teachers earn $2,000 more than the average teacher in comparable schools, though no raises have been given since 2008. The board proposed 2 percent raises in each year of the contract. The Association countered with a 2 percent the first year followed by additional 3 percent raises in the final two years, totaling more than $15 million in additional expenses through 2015.
The fact finder resolved the issue by granting a 2 percent raise expected in January, followed by a 2.35 percent increase in July and a 2.85 percent increase a year later. The board also voted Monday to give the same raises to administrators.
Dramatic changes were made to teachers’ health insurance plans.
The board suggested that employees contribute 15 percent of monthly premiums. The association suggested that premiums be based on a percent of salary, or about $34 a month for the average teacher. The fact finder reconciled the issue by doubling current premiums to $50 per month for a single plan and $100 a month for family coverage. Co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drug purchases doubled.
The fact finder’s report can be viewed online at Ohio.com.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.