GILFORD — The school district and the Gilford Education Association have agreed on and the union membership has ratified a 3-year collective bargaining agreement that will add $111,798 to the salary and benefits portion of the 2014-2015 school budget.
If approved at annual Town Meeting, the agreement will be in effect from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017 and affects 121 education professionals including teachers, guidance counselors, specialists and other professional staff.
Budget increases total another $257,911 in 2015-2016 and an additonal $260,323 in 2016-2017.
The contract amounts will appear on the SB-2 Official Ballot in March. According to state law, the voters can vote up or down on the dollar amount of the contract but the amount cannot be changed during the annual deliberative session part of the annual meeting.
According to Superintendent Kent Hemingway and School Board Chair Sue Allen, the new contract represents an average 3 percent annual raise for the next three years.
"Where the collaboration happened is with the health care benefits," Hemingway said, noting that every dollar increase in health care costs not only costs the taxpayers and employees money but represents money that leaves the community.
Savings of $156,056 in the first year in the benefits line represents what both described as a unified approach to the rising costs of health care.
Hemingway said the union and the administration jointly embarked on a health care review in preparation for the recent contract talks and all parties agreed and realized that rising health care costs were the single biggest driver of school budget increases.
He said the biggest change is the elimination of the current $1 mail-in prescription program employees have enjoyed.
The other significant health care change was an agreement to provide a Matthew-Thornton HMO plan on the menu of health care options. Hemingway said the Blue Cross Anthem plan is still available for employees who want to pay the additional cost but the basic insurance program is a different model.
Allen said the school district agreed to pay about 95-percent of the costs of the new base health plan in exchange for the HMO-type base plan.