Union members will ratify agreement in coming weeks;
Board of Education to vote on the agreements in June
The Montgomery County Board of Education has reached a tentative agreement with its three employee associations on contract provisions for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY 2013).
The settlement language provides an average salary increase of about 3.4 percent to the school district’s employees, while asking them to pay higher co-pays for health care services such as doctor visits and prescription drugs. MCPS employees have not received cost-of-living increases for the past three years and have given up their step and longevity increments for the past two years.
In the coming weeks, the proposed settlements will be presented to and voted on by the members of the three employee organizations—the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), the Service Employees International Union Local 500 (SEIU) and the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals (MCAAP). If ratified, the settlements will be voted on by the Montgomery County Board of Education on June 14.
The money for salary increases is part of the school district’s $2.1 billion budget for FY 2013, which meets the minimum Maintenance of Effort (MOE) funding level required by state law. The Montgomery County Council has tentatively approved the budget and will take a final vote on Thursday.
“This agreement is about sustainability. If we are going to sustain our history of excellence and sustain the reputation of Montgomery County as a great place to live, we must invest in the staff that does this outstanding work,” said Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr. “MCPS has the best employees in public education and this agreement allows us to recognize that excellence in a fiscally responsible way.”
The completion of negotiations was delayed due to uncertainty about state funding. In April, the Maryland General Assembly failed to come to an agreement on a budget and passed a spending plan that dramatically cut state funding to education. At a special session last week, the General Assembly passed a new budget that restores public education funding to its expected level.
Dr. Starr said the collaborative relationship between MCPS and its employee associations—including a commitment to interest-based bargaining—has allowed the school district to weather difficult economic times while maintaining high quality and high student achievement.
“The partnership between MCPS and its employees fosters honest conversations that are in the best interests of our students,” Dr. Starr said. “Ultimately, this relationship benefits our children, our taxpayers and our county, as a whole.”
Although the total cost of this agreement is $47 million, the compensation increases represent about $20 million, or one percent of the overall budget. The increase is offset by savings of almost $27 million as a result of significantly higher-than-expected turnover—which is primarily due to retirements—and lower rates of pay than budgeted for newly hired employees.
The contract also addresses other areas, including working conditions, responsibilities and mileage reimbursement.
“The enhanced language in this contract helps ensure that those working with students every day can better focus their time on teaching and on preparing for their work with students,” said Douglas Prouty, president of MCEA, which represents about 12,000 educators. “This contract is good for our kids.”
Among the provisions is a commitment by MCPS to help SEIU employees that had their hours reduced find additional hours elsewhere in the system.
“Our members have been hit extremely hard by the economic downturn and this contract allows us to address their financial needs,” said Merle Cuttitta, president of SEIU Local 500, which represents about 9,000 members. “This contract will help our supporting services employees continue to be the backbone of a great school district.”
“Recruiting and retaining the best and brightest includes making sure our employees feel valued and appreciated,” said Debra Mugge, president of MCAAP. “This contract not only values the members of our association, but also the employees they work with and supervise every day.”
The agreement covers FY 2013 only. Any compensation increases or other economic provisions for FY 2014 will have to be negotiated and agreed to by all parties.
All employees hired before February 1, 2012, will be eligible for a salary increase at the start of FY 2013. The average salary increase will be 3.4 percent.
Any MCPS employee who is eligible for a step or longevity increment will receive that increase on July 1, 2012. Employees that are not eligible for a step or longevity increment will receive a 2 percent salary increase on July 1, 2012.
The settlements include the restoration of step increases that were not funded in FY 2011 on May 4, 2013. Only employees that were due a step increase in FY 2011 will receive this increase.
Effective January 1, 2013, changes will be made in employee health plans that are expected to save about $7.5 million a year. Among the changes:
- Prescription co-pays will go up $10 for non-generic drugs
- Co-pays for doctor visits will go up $5–$10, depending on the plan and whether it is a primary care doctor or a specialist that is being seen
The co-pay changes are designed to encourage greater use of generic drugs and greater use of primary care physicians, which could lead to further savings of at least $1.5 million annually.
Other changes in the agreed-upon language include the elimination of pencil-and-paper bubble sheets for grading; the creation of an elementary online attendance system over the next two years and an initiative to reduce paperwork in the areas of special education and English for Speakers of Other Languages.