The Lake Oswego School Board approved a four-year contract for the classified and teachers' unions during a Monday meeting that included 3 percent cost-of-living-adjustment increases in each of the next two years.
The unions will also receive an additional a 2.5 percent COLA increase in the third and fourth years of the contract. The Lake Oswego Education Association (about 400 teachers) and Lake Oswego School Employees (about 300 classified staff members) ratified their contracts last week. And the school board reviewed the highlight of those agreements Monday evening before unanimously approving both contracts 5-0.
"District employees have provided and continue to provide substantial support in order to assist the district in delivering academic excellence while addressing the needs of all students," School Board Chair John Wallin said. "We are very appreciative of the long-standing professional and collaborative spirit of partnership that has produced these agreements."
The contract, retroactively effective to July 1, also includes an additional step for long-time staff. What step employees are at in their job depends on education and seniority, but some people have been around so long that they've reached the maximum step in their position. Adding another step means this contract rewards long-serving employees who are eligible to go up another step.
There's also language that limits the financial impact of inclement weather on classified staff — which includes food service workers, computer techs, custodians and bookkeepers — who, unlike teachers, do not have snow days built into their schedules.
Classified union President Melissa Siegel said that the contract shows that the district values the contributions of its staff.
"We all contribute to the education of Lake Oswego students, and I know my coworkers are grateful that the school district sees that," Siegel said.
Teachers' union Negotiations Chair Gerrit Koepping noted that it's not easy to invest long nights in hammering out an agreement, but it can be done without "acrimony and rancor."
"While no one would describe contract bargaining as fun, the subsequent agreement provides teachers and other licensed staff with fair wages and benefits while maintaining financial stability for the district," Koepping said.
In addition to the other benefits in the contract, the district made an insurance adjustment that the district's consultant "estimates this will save the district over 5 percent in medical insurance costs this first year," according to a school district press release.
Koepping said it's a clever move that's beneficial to the district and the unions. He said the district has been seeing premium increases to its medical insurance plans for a long time. The district is now streamlining its plans to simpler, less-expensive ones.
Like many people with medical insurance, district employees have a certain amount they have to pay for a treatment that may not covered (a deductible) and then a maximum amount they pay out of pocket overall. Most people don't have health conditions so severe that they need the type of plans that cover a series of expensive health procedures, Koepping noted. But for the few who do, the district will pay what isn't covered in the simpler plans or "will self-insure, for lack of a better term," he explained.
"The idea is there are only so many of us that have significant medical costs that it will save the district money in the long run because the district won't be paying for the more-expensive insurance that many people don't use," he explained.
Not only are their wage increases, medical benefit changes and an update to pay for classified staff during days off caused by nasty weather, both unions also received additional time for paid training. The district has committed four hours to teachers and two hours to classified staff for state-mandated training on topics such as health and professional conduct. The additional hours mean employees won't need to try to shoehorn the training in among their other duties.
Koepping said that, along with these many positive aspects, he's also pleased with the contract's longevity, being four years long instead of the usual three. He said it's a fair contract, even though it came a little later in the year than usual.
"Traditionally, we would have done this at the end of the school year, but because the state finance numbers were released so late … it did take us longer," he said.
More than 80 percent of the district's revenue flows from the state, and this spring, the state was uncertain what the fallout would be of the Oregon Supreme Court's decision to overturn Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) cost reforms. Officials soon learned there was a $22 billion pension deficit to balance out. But, the $8.2 billion K-12 budget for 2017-19 that the Oregon Legislature ended up approving on June 27 was $400 million more than anticipated, so the LOSD did not experience a budget shortfall as initially projected.
In fact, with $2.032 million in additional dollars to spend in Measure 98 funds on college and career readiness and drop-out prevention, the district will be able to make additional staffing investments. There also will be funding coming in for facilities since voters passed a $187 million bond to address deferred maintenance; replace Lakeridge Junior High; replace the district pool; and make upgrades to safety, security and technology.
In fact, it is a far cry from only a few years ago during the recession when the district had to include unpaid days off in the unions' contracts.
"These agreements demonstrate the high value we place on our exceptional staff while showing our appreciation for their past support during lean economic times," Wallin said. "We are grateful that the process allowed everyone to win."
ALSO AT THE MEETING
The School Board unanimously approved salaries for non-represented employees such as administrators and directors. Like the teachers' and classified unions, their salaries will bump up by 3 percent increase in each of the coming two years and an additional 2.5 percent in both 2019-20 and 2020-21.
The School Board also approved a one-year contract with Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Heather Beck of $170,000 from July 1, 2017-June 30 2018.