The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 24, 2013

Windber school board, teachers agree to deal

WINDBER — Windber school board has inked a deal that keeps its teachers union under contract through the end of the decade.

After two years working under extensions to a contract that expired in 2011, the sides now have agreed on an eight-year pact that will provide increases for nearly all teachers next year while allowing the district to map out budget plans for years to come, school officials said.

“The length of the contract gives the district the unprecedented ability to make long-term budget projections during shifting economic times and removes a fair amount of financial uncertainty related to annual salary and health care expenses,” Superintendent Rick Huffman wrote in a news release.

According to the district’s salary schedule, annual salaries to teachers on the lowest pay steps – recent and future hires – will see the most significant changes in pay.

Over the next eight years a first-step teacher’s salary would increase from $35,000 to $44,000.

The salary scale for a third- step teacher would jump from $38,000 this year to $41,600 in 2016 – and then $45,000 in the 2019-20 school year.

Meanwhile, top-scale teachers currently paid $70,000 a year would see salaries increase to $72,000 in 2017-18 and remain at that level through the remainder of the deal.

That’s a less than 3 percent increase.

Veteran teachers on steps just below the top scale would see their positions receive annual increases of approximately $700 over the life of the contract.

A midlevel teacher, meanwhile, would see annual wage increases of approximately $400 annually over the life of the contract as they moved up steps from year to year. For a teacher earning $60,100 this year, the $400 increase next year equates to a less than a

1 percent increase.

The contract also puts a cap on the amount the district contributes to future teacher health care costs, which once reached would require teachers to cover added amounts over and above it or switch to other district-offered health care plans.

Huffman said the teachers union, the Windber Area Education Association, ratified the deal by a 2-1 margin.

Board members also praised the deal.

“With contract negotiations behind us,” board President Timothy Tokarsky said, “we look forward to a productive eight years that will help our students build and strengthen the skills they need to succeed.”

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