NEW ULM - The District 88 Board of Education on Thursday approved two two-year contracts with each of the following employee groups: food service, clerical and custodial employees.
They are represented by the same union.
As a result of the negotiations, no changes will be made, retroactively, to the contracts for the first year covered, 2011-12.
In each of the remaining three years - 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 - salaries will increase by 1 percent.
In addition, in each of these three years, the district contribution to health insurance premiums will increase by half the amount of the actual increase. The other half of the increase will be paid for by the employees.
Adjustments were also made to the step schedules (which determine pay based on length of service). The changes affect the progression to the top, adding some steps.
Some changes were specific to each employee group.
In the case of clerical employees, the district is adding an up-to-$200 match to what the employee saves in deferred compensation; a provision already in place for other groups.
In the case of custodians, a previously suspended similar deferred compensation provision is being reinstated as of July 1, 2012.
Also, a 10-cent wage differential is added for custodial employees holding a boiler license or Apple certification, if these qualifications are part of the skills relevant to their jobs.
In the case of food service employees, the new contract includes clarification and expansion of provisions related to inclement weather.
Board negotiator Susan Nierengarten, who reported settlement details, also said the settlement largely accomplished district goals. The increases in salary were "very modest," which should help the financial condition of the district.
She also noted that the fact that employees are sharing more of the cost of health insurance may encourage the search for lower-cost plans or other options to reduce premiums.
Nierengarten pointed out the benefit of signing two settlements at once. It would facilitate budget planning and also help focus on issues other than negotiations.
The district has yet to settle contracts with paraprofessionals, principals and non-unionized employees.
In other business, the board approved the refinancing of $2.11 million in building debt. The move reduced interest from 3.79 percent, saving tax payers $217,000. The debt will also be paid off in 2016, earlier than projected.
Added to similar recent action, the refinancing reduces future taxes by about $700,000, noted Business Manager Myrna Meunier.
Superintendent Harold Remme observed that savings do not help with the operating budget. The district still needs more operating money, which is the district's justification for calling an operating levy referendum Nov. 6, he indicated.