News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 27, 2013

Board approves 1-year teacher contract

Board, teachers’ union reach agreement before school starts for 16th straight year

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County School Board on Monday night unanimously approved a new, one-year collective bargaining agreement with the Vigo County Teachers Association.

Under the agreement, VCSC teachers who were rated as “effective” or “highly effective” under a new, performance-based compensation system will receive a 2.2-percent raise to their base salary for the 2013-14 school year.

Under the performance-based model, required by state law, teachers ranked in the lower two categories — “ineffective” or “needs improvement” — cannot receive any increase in compensation the following year.

Other aspects of the proposed contract:

n Effective with the Jan. 1, 2014, health insurance premium renewal, the school board will assume up to 1 percent of any premium increase.

n The contract increases the board’s annual contribution from 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent to the 401(a) qualified retirement plan, a deferred compensation plan.

n Because of changes in the state collective bargaining law in 2011, all prohibited subjects of bargaining were removed from the collective bargaining agreement. The majority of this removed language has been placed in VCSC administrative guidelines, which are nonbinding.

Teachers ratified the contract Aug. 16.

“It is a fair contract, and in very difficult times,” Mark Lee, Vigo County Teachers Association president, said in a telephone interview after the meeting.

The financial package for the one-year contract is close to $2 million, Lee recently told teachers.

It’s estimated the district will receive only about $99,000 in new state funding for 2013-14. As a result, the district must use part of its cash balance to help pay for the raises. Funding also became available through teacher retirements.

After the meeting, Superintendent Dan Tanoos stated, “I feel it was very fair for our teachers and the school corporation. Our employees have worked hard over time to ensure our financial solvency. We believe the raise is something we can afford at this time.”

Board President Paul Lockhart thanked bargaining teams for their hard work and efforts to bring negotiations to conclusion in a positive way. “It sets a good tone if we can have an agreement at the start of school,” he said.

Board member Jackie Lower said she believes the district “stands out” because of the level of cooperation between the district and teachers union. She also believes it’s good for teacher morale to start the year with an agreement.

“It [contract settlement] is the best we could do at this time,” Lower said.

Officials have noted it’s the 16th year in a row that the school district and VCTA have reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement before the start of school.

In other matters, no citizens offered comment during a public hearing on the 2014 budgets, advertised at $148.8 million.

The budget consists of the general fund (funded by the state, not local property taxes), $108.7 million; debt service, $8.5 million; capital projects, $22.7 million; transportation, $6.8 million; and bus replacement, $2.1 million.

The board is expected to adopt the budget on Sept. 9.

Donna Wilson, chief financial officer, noted after the meeting that circuit breaker legislation continues to cost the district about $3.5 million in revenues annually, with much of the loss being taken out of the capital projects budget.

During a public comment period, Kim Norris, tax analyst with the Taxpayers Association of Vigo County, raised some questions related to the school board’s decision to build a single pool at a central location to replace three high school pools.

The Taxpayers Association board recently met and raised some concerns, she said.

Among the concerns were transportation logistics of the Swim by 7 program for kindergarten students; whether bonds will be rated and whether local construction companies will have the opportunity to bid on the project.

Tanoos responded that the district will bid the pool project out as it normally bids projects, “and we always hope local construction companies get the work.”

He noted the district is working with United Way to secure a grant to fund transportation for Swim by 7, in which kindergarten students would be transported to the pool five days in a row for swim lessons. The program would extend throughout the school year to accommodate all kindergarten classes.

Tanoos noted he previously met with John Hilderbrand, executive director of the Taxpayers Association, who expressed his support for the pool project.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.