The union representing most of Saline’s teachers and the Saline Board of Education have reached agreement on a two-year contract.
There are no across-the-scale raises for teachers in the deal. Instead young teachers will maintain the ability to achieve pay raises with “steps” and “lane changes” and senior staff at the top of the pay scale will receive a two-percent off-schedule payment next year. The union also agreed to bundle dental, vision and life insurance benefits in the district’s hard cap plan – so increases in the costs of these benefits will be borne by employees.
Saline Area Schools teachers are well paid by state standards. About 85 percent of the district’s general fund expenditures relate to employee compensation. In recent years, the district has lost teaching staff to a neighboring Ann Arbor school district funded by the state at a much higher level.
Superintendent Scot Graden offering competitive compensation packages is difficult at current funding levels.
“We want to take care of employees to the extent we can. The ability to have steps and lanes changes for young teachers growing in the profession is a critical piece for us. It’s challenging because we were not in a position to add money to our scale and truly increase our legacy costs,” Graden said.
The deal also includes an early retirement incentive.
Brian Boze is president of the Saline Education Association – the union presenting about 92 percent of Saline’s 320 teachers. Boze said he did not know what percentage of the union voted to ratify the deal. The vote was held online.
The contract was the result of a six-week collaborative process, Boze said. At a special Board of Education meeting held last week, Boze, a graduate of Saline High School, said it helped working with fellow alumni like Graden and Curt Ellis, assistant superintendent for human resources.
He said he felt it was a fair deal given the pressure on the district’s general fund balance.
“Young teachers get their steps and lane changes. There is money for senior staff,” Boze said. “A good contract involves a lot of compromise. Ultimately, we feel at the end of the process that it’s a creative deal. It's not full of 'we win-you lose' type of language.”
Boze acknowledged Saline’s staff are fairly compensated compared to peers in Michigan.
He also said that while teachers are paying more for benefits and likely experiencing less take-home pay than they once did, the district is spending more on compensation for each teacher because of rising health care and pension costs.
“The district’s contribution to the employee has increased, even if we don’t always feel it,” Boze said.
Boze his SEA team negotiated with Ellis’s team for about six weeks. The deal was chiseled without the help of lawyers, Boze said.
Board President Tim Austin thanked administration and the SEA negotiating team for their work on the agreement.
“Saline is lucky to be a district that has two groups with one common goal, the betterment of Saline Area Schools. This was evident through the process, and we appreciate this partnership,” Austin said. “It was important to the board to be able to find a way to give back to our staff within a very tight budget. This contract does that, as well as puts us in a stronger financial position in the future.”
The district's other two unions, representing administrators and support staff, have contracts through 2019.