Steamboat schools bargaining team agrees to small raises, paying insurance premiums | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat schools bargaining team agrees to small raises, paying insurance premiums

Steamboat Springs High School teacher Meghan Hanson-Peters helps a student with her world geography assignment during class in 2014.

— Steamboat school employees could soon begin paying insurance premiums, using a portion of their modest raises to do so.

Steamboat Springs School District bargaining team members Wednesday night agreed unanimously on a new compensation package including small raises for all employees, but teachers and classified staff in the room admitted they weren't thrilled with the outcome.

"We need to come to a solution that's not on the backs of our staff," said kindergarten teacher Carol Harris. "Our students deserve better, our staff deserves better, and I think that's something we can all agree on."

Bargaining members agreed to award classified staff a 2 percent raise and teachers a 1.5 percent raise, and bring classified staff currently paid more than 5 percent below the market average up to only 2 percent below the market average.

Under the new insurance agreement, staff will now pay $30 a month for insurance premiums for themselves and $60 more for spouses on the plan and $90 more for family plans.

In the past, employees paid nothing for individual premiums but did pay for spouses and children who joined their plans. Staff could still opt for a high deductible health plan with no employee only premium.

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The agreement is now subject to a staff vote and will then be rolled into the district's proposed budget, which is subject to school board approval.

The market adjustments would cost the district about $85,000 next year, while the raises would be another $280,000.

Together, the numbers add up to about $75,000 more than what is penciled into the district's most recent preliminary budget, meaning money will need to be cut from somewhere else to achieve a balanced budget, a goal of the school board.

"It's a person, someone is losing an FTE (full-time equivalent)," said Amy Bohmer, Soda Creek Elementary assistant principal, noting that $75,000 is similar to the cost of a salary and benefits for a district teacher.

At the end of Wednesday night's meeting, staff members said they were happy to have come to an agreement earlier than in past years. They cancelled a scheduled May meeting, but some were unsure how other staff members would react to the compensation package.

"I'm worried about our young teachers, because we need them," said Steamboat Springs Middle School teacher Ben Barbier.

Superintendent Brad Meeks acknowledged that school funding and staff compensation are complicated issues, and he complimented staff for being part of a district that others look to for guidance on how to be successful.

"We're doing a lot of things right, and we're trying to stay ahead," Meeks said. "These are our real problems, and they're tough to solve. They're complex, and this group does a great job coming up with solutions."

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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