Nancy Tothill, chief negotiator for the Gilmanton Education Association, descibes a new collective bargaining agreement with teachers at the local Budget Committee Wednesday night. Under the plan, health insurance savings will increase, one of the key differences in the new plan. The committee unanimously endorsed the proposal, which now faces a public vote. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)
Gilmanton Budget Committee approves new salary proposal
By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — Taxpayers will save $26,098 on Gilmanton's newest proposed collective bargaining agreement with teachers, compared with what would have gone into effect in March, advocates for the agreement said this week.
The contract up for a vote offers an 8.5 percent decrease in cost from the previous agreement which voters rejected at the polls, according to advocates for the new three-year agreement.
On Wednesday, the Gilmanton Budget Committee unanimously endorsed the agreement, noting that it tackles the rising cost of health insurance. Premiums are much lower than in traditional plans because teachers pay higher deductibles, the teachers' association noted.
A special deliberative session to discuss the proposed teachers' collective bargaining agreement is set for Tuesday, May 16, at 7 p.m. in the Gilmanton School Multi-purpose Room. Voting Day is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 13, at the Gilmanton Academy Building.
On March 14, Gilmanton voters turned down the collective bargaining agreement reached between the Gilmanton School Board and the Gilmanton Education Association. This previous agreement called for increases in salaries and benefits of $41,311 in 2017-2018; $129,327 in 2018-2019; and $133,211 in 2019-2020.
The new agreement calls for increases of $90,233 in fiscal year 2018, $89,488 in fiscal year 2019 and $98,030 in fiscal year 2020. But the new agreement features health insurance savings in the respective years of $6,949, $14,792 and $26,556.
In March, Article 12, the collective bargaining agreement between the district and teachers, failed 423-384. Voters approved another article on the warrant authorizing the followup special meeting on whatever contract was negotiated.
On Wednesday, the Budget Committee praised the new proposed agreement, Article 1, calling it a step in the right direction.
The 85 percent share that the district now pays for teachers' health insurance was slated to rise to 97 percent under the previous proposed contract.
The district contribution will drop from 95 percent to 93 percent then 91 percent in the third year under the new plan.
Brian Forst, chairman of the Budget Committee, gave thumbs up to the new plan. Forst was on the committee when it voted to not recommend Article 12, the collective bargaining agreement that failed in March. The Budget Committee's vote was 5-3 to not recommend the initial contract in January.
"We're trying to get the school board and the town to understand that we need some concrete vision going forward on how we're going to try to control these costs," he said at the time, noting the concern raised "when we hear 97 percent of the cost being burdened by the taxpayer and 3 percent being burdened by the employee."
On Wednesday, Forst said, "Potential is here for this to be more of what I believe this committee was asking to be done."
Nancy Tothill, chief negotiator for the Gilmanton Education Association, said health insurance savings will increase, one of the key differences in the new plan.
When a 9 percent increase in health insurance cost was projected for the coming year, the Gilmanton Education Association switched plans from an Anthem policy and consolidated to two plans, she explained.
"The goal was to have a shared cost savings that was the same whether you had a single person on the plan, a two-person or a family, and we met that goal by switching to Cigna School Care and decreased the school contribution from in some cases 100 percent to 85 percent," Tothill recalled.
"However, when we entered into negotiations in the fall of 2016 it became apparent to us when we got our estimated rate that our health insurance could possibly be going up 9 percent," she said. "The Budget Committee didn't want to see it, the teachers didn't want to see it, either."
The teachers embraced a consumer-driven approach where "the consumer bears the brunt of managing their own health insurance through high deductibles," Tothill said.
"When that didn't pass, we heard the Budget Committee wanted more control over rising health insurance costs, so we adjusted that to a 95 percent (ratio)" for a district contribution, up from 85 percent, she said.
"In good faith, the teachers have agreed to pay 2 percent more for their health insurance," she said.
For a single teacher, the proposed plan would cost $686 a month, compared with $703 per month under the current plan; for a two-person policy holder, the proposed plan would cost $1,373 a month, compared with $1,405 per month under the current plan; and for a family, the proposed plan would cost $1,854 a month, compared with $1,897 per month under the current plan.
The contract includes salary increases of 3 percent, 3 percent and 3.25 percent, in respective years.
Liz Brulotte, a teacher at Gilmanton School, cited the effort "to take our school from an 'in need of improvement' school to one of the top schools in the entire country."
The Gilmanton School was named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
Brulotte said teachers tried to stem the cost of health insurance.
"I think our negotiation team has worked endlessly with the school board to be conscientious of the impact on the tax burden of the people of Gilmanton," she said.