Mars, teachers OK contract until 2014
Cranberry Eagle
Written by:
November 7, 2012

ADAMS TWP — While the Mars School Board and its 200 teachers agreed on a contract Monday, they will find themselves back at the bargaining table in 14 months. The teachers voted to approve the deal Monday afternoon, the board did likewise last night.

The two-year contract takes effect retroactive to July 1. Teachers will receive a 3 percent pay increase this school year and a 4.4 percent increase in 2013-14. The most experienced teachers at the top of the pay schedule also will receive annual increases of at least $1,000.

The current starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree at Mars is $37,532. This teacher now will make $38,658 this school year and $40,359 in the 2013-14 school year.

The average salary for a teacher is $55,445. This teacher will earn $57,108 this school year and $59,621 next school year.

The highest paid teacher in the district, who has a master’s degree and is at the top of the salary schedule, makes $72,712. This teacher will get $74,893 this school year and $78,188 next school year.

Stipends for teachers serving as an activity sponsor, coach or other supplemental position will be raised 3 percent.

The contract will expire on June 31, 2014.

District solicitor Tom King, who also was negotiator for the district in the past two bargaining sessions, said health care deductibles increased in the new deal from $250 for individual plans and $500 for a family to $600 for an individual and $1,200 for families.

King said the new deductibles are the highest of any school district in Butler County.

King said the deductible increase will save the district $347,000 per year. He said the move will impact all employees who use the district’s health insurance, including administrators.

For the first time, teachers will contribute toward their health care plans on a monthly basis.

A single person will pay $20 a month; a couple or single parent and children will pay $30 per month, and a family will pay $40 per month.

This should save the district $81,000 per year.

Teachers will receive no additional benefits in the new contract.

Other savings for the district will come through the elimination of the health insurance buyout for couples, at $35,000 per year; a one-year reduction in years the district will pay for a retiree’s health care, at $14,000 per retiree, per year; and the elimination in 2014 of partial reimbursement to teachers who retire early, at $20,000 per retiree.

Life insurance for teachers will rise from $30,000 to $50,000, which is the first increase since 1989.

The contract also includes the creation of a joint committee on professional attire, which will adopt a professional dress code for the professional staff. An equal number of teachers and administrators will serve on the committee, which must be formed by June 30, 2013.

Another provision takes the athletic director position out of the union bargaining unit.

Teacher Mark Lewandowski, who was a negotiator for the Mars Area Education Association, said teachers approved the contract even though it places their average career salaries below the average of all districts in the county.

“(The contract) enables the district to provide continued financial flexibility in providing educational opportunities for the students,” Lewandowski said.

He said teachers hope to maintain the congenial relationship with the board gained during the past few weeks as it prepares to negotiate a new contract in January 2014.

Lewandowski thanked the community for its support over the negotiations, and told the board that teachers hope the board can now come to an agreement with the secretaries, custodians and paraprofessionals in the Mars Area Educational support personnel.

School board president Dayle Ferguson said the board was pleased to have a teacher contract in place.

“This agreement balances a well-deserved investment in those who positively and directly impact our students with the economic challenges our district continues to face,” Ferguson said. “This contract is based on mutual compromise, is fiscally sustainable, and provides much-needed budget stability in an uncertain funding environment.”

Teachers, as well as administrators, support personnel and the district solicitor, agreed to a one-year pay freeze in the 2011-12 school year because of decreased funding in the state budget as well as rising pension outlays and other cost increases.

All districts in Pennsylvania continue to struggle with their budgets, and Mars found itself in the additionally difficult position of facing contract negotiations with two unions.

Ferguson said the settling of the teachers contract will allow the district to focus on the business of educational excellence.

“With this issue behind us, we will continue to build upon the many special things that make our community and our schools such wonderful places to live and learn,” she said.