Southern Columbia staff ill pay 24% for health insurance
CATAWISSA RR - A new agreement approved Monday night that would require Southern Columbia Area supervisory and non-support staff to eventually contribute 24 percent to their health care insurance in three years left one employee and two board members sour.
The district and the teachers union negotiated a 24 percent contribution to teachers' health insurance in May, and the eventual goal is to have all employees contribute 24 percent. With the approval of the new handbooks for the supervisory and support staff Monday night, those employees will see their 8 percent contribution grow to 16 percent in the 2013-14 school year and 24 the following school year.
"At 24 percent, that's a big hit for someone with a $20,000 salary. I don't think this is a fair way of doing this," Derek Stine, transportation employee, said.
He said he understands the need for contribution, but asked the board to reconsider approving the agreement.
"It's a real hit in the pocket," he said.
Director Timothy Vought agreed, saying he was "completely opposed and appalled" by it.
The goal of the board is to have the teachers and other employees of the district be equal in their contributions, but Vought said they were not equal in work.
"These people (the non-teachers) don't come in at 7 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m.," he said, noting they are always on call and work more than 40 hours a week.
While the increases at 16 and then 24 percent would save the district a combined $69,700, the proposed new employee handbook spells out that employees could work extra hours to cover the first 8 percent.
Those hours would result in at least $7,100 paid for by the district in the first year, Vought said, and he thinks that would be made up in the budget by cutting a teacher or a program.
"We filled this room last year with kids crying and telling stories about losing their music program," he said.
Director Rick Steele reiterated Vought's points and added, "I have real issues with this despite the amount of work we put into it."
Directors Gail Zambor Schuerch and Charlie Porter made and seconded the motion to approve the revised supervisory staff handbook, the revised (non-union) support staff handbook and the supervisory staff and (non-union) support staff salaries in a block vote. It passed 6-2 with directors Vought and Steele voting against the motion.
The new agreements also dealt with compensatory time, but there was no discussion about this among the board members or public.
It was reported last month that under the new policy, dental and vision insurance would be fully paid by the district, whereas those employees are currently paying $2 per bi-weekly pay for spouses.
Under the new policy, a supervisory employee, whose position will be labeled as salaried, who works on a weekend or holiday may elect to receive compensatory time off or be compensated for hours up to 35 hours per year at his or her hourly rate.
The new policy would allow support staff employees who work 7 1/2 hours or more per day may take a 15-minute break in both the morning and afternoon, and have the opportunity to work up to 35 hours a year of compensatory time at a rate of one-half times the hourly rate for each hour worked.
Support staff employees currently work 7-hour days, which includes a 30-minute paid lunch, which would also continue.
The supervisory and support staff members wouldn't receive any increase in hourly rates, but their salaries would increase due to more hours worked.
The new agreements bring equity where there was none before among all employees, Porter said.
In other business, the board approved:
A memorandum of agreement between the Southern Columbia Area Education Association and the district. Previously, teachers were granted four personal days. With the new agreement, every teacher in each of the three education buildings now have three personal days.
A change to the school calendar. The dates of Oct. 29 and 30 were missed due to heavy rain and power outages last week. Oct. 29 will be made up Jan. 18 while Oct. 30 will be made up Feb. 8. Both of those days were originally scheduled to be Act 80 days, therefore both Act 80 days will be made up on Feb. 18 and March 11, which will both be teachers' days.