QUEENSBURY -- After nearly 19 months of negotiation, the Queensbury Union Free School District and its teachers have agreed to a 3-year contract that will cost an extra $1.1 million over the life of the deal.
On Monday, the Board of Education approved the contract, which officials said was settled with an eye toward current economic conditions.
The board voted 6-1-1 on the contract. Recently elected board member Doug Beaty voted against the measure, while board member Frank Miller abstained.
The contract is retroactive to the 2009-10 school year, when teachers received an average of 2.88 percent in salary increases. This includes the 2.2 percent step increase that Queensbury is mandated to provide. But due to retirements and reductions in teaching staff, the cost of salaries to the district decreased 0.08 percent that year.
In 2010-11, the average pay increase will be 3.16 percent, including the step increment. In 2011-12, the final year, the average pay increase will be 3.25 percent with the step increment.
Under the agreement, salaries cost $16.9 million in 2009-10. In 2010-11, that figure will be nearly $17.5 million. By the final year of the contract, it will be $18 million.
While the increase in wages totals 9.29 percent over the life of the contract, the teachers have made concessions in health insurance that will result in an overall 4.5 percent increase in costs over the three-year deal.
Douglas Huntley, superintendent of schools, said the board doesn't expect the tax levy to increase in 2010-11 as a result of the contract.
"For the most part, the board stayed within its parameters," Huntley said. "Neither party was completely happy with the settlement, and that often indicates that this went reasonably well."
Under the agreement, the district will contribute only toward the cost of the PPO health insurance plan, the cheaper of two medical benefit options. Teachers who remain on the Matrix plan would pick up the difference between the two plans. Most of the teachers are using the PPO plan, Huntley said.
In addition, teachers in 2011-12 will contribute 12 percent, up from 11 percent, toward their health benefits.
Beaty, who was elected in May and attended his first board meeting on Monday, said a 12 percent contribution was not in the best interest of taxpayers. He said he wanted the number to be closer to the 28 percent national average for health care.
"I was hoping we could get closer to closing the gap," he said. "That's a big concern of mine."
Other board members said the agreement was fair. They said the 1 percent increase in contributions is a start toward bringing the medical benefit contribution closer to the national average.
"To get to the national average, it's going to take time," said Raymond Gordon, board president.
The teachers, who are part of the Queensbury Faculty Association, have 300 members. They are the largest bargaining group in the district.
Their last contract ended on June 30, 2009. The two sides began negotiating in January 2009 and reached a tentative agreement last month.
Huntley said the teachers approved the contract by an overwhelming margin in June. Afterward, the board had to vote on the agreement for it to become final.
Officials said both sides remained professional in negotiations.