By Lynne Phillips
New London's Board of Education approved the negotiated agreement with the district's classified staff during Monday evening's meeting.Superintendent Brad Romano said, "Our Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) partners made three significant concessions for the district." The concessions, according to Romano, won't balance the district's budget, but will help the financial stability of the district over the long term. "Our OAPSE partners were very open to negotiations with the board," stated Romano. "They came well prepared and it was a very smooth process. They (OAPSE) put the needs of the district ahead of themselves. It was clear OAPSE wanted to come to an agreement that was beneficial to all stakeholders before the start of the new school year. Two of those concessions relate to insurance. "They moved from their preferred status to the Wellness Plan," he stated. "It is a higher out-of-pocket cost, but there is some added coverage." He added, "It was a significant concession. They also accepted the Spousal Eligibility Policy supplied by Huron Erie School Employees (HESE). HESE is a consortium of school districts who pool their buying power to keep health care costs down. "The spousal policy," Romano said, "is that if a school employee's spouse is eligible to receive insurance from their employer, they are required to take that insurance and the district's insurance would become a secondary insurance. "The district's administrators and supervisors are taking the same insurance as our OAPSE partners. "Also part of the promise to OAPSE with the concessions they made is that we would reinvest a portion of the savings in them." That reinvestment comes in the form of a $.25 per hour raise in all classifications in each year of the three year contract. The third concession made by OAPSE is in the area of retirement benefits. Under state law, all employees are required to contribute 11 percent of their salaries to the School Employees Retirement System (SERS), with the district matching that amount. Currently, the board picks up five and half percent of the employee share of the retirement contribution. Under terms of the new contract, current OAPSE employees will be grandfathered and the board will continue to pick up the five and half percent. However, new school employees (beginning with the 2014-2015 school year) will have to pay that five and half percent contribution themselves. Savings from the move to requiring new employees to pay their own retirement contribution will not be immediate, " according to Romano, "but over the long term the district will see significant savings." Insurance concessions are expected to generate a savings of approximately ten percent of the cost of insurance premiums.. Bus drivers for the district, according to Romano, are not insured the same as other OAPSE employees as they work only four hours per day. "They pay 33 percent of their insurance and other classification of employees pay 12 percent," he stated. "With the new contract drivers have the opportunity to work additional hours driving for trips and athletic events and the more hours they work the less they will have to pay for their insurance.Our drivers," stated Romano, "are a valuable asset to our district and this language demonstrates our appreciation of our efforts."