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Elmbrook School Board Approves Wage Raises for Teachers

In its first teachers contract post Act 10, the Elmbrook School Distict and teachers agreed to a 1.5 percent wage increase.

Elmbrook School District teachers will receive 1.5 percent pay raises, slightly less than the maximum 1.64 percent allowed by Act 10, under a collective bargaining agreement approved Tuesday by the Elmbrook School Board.

The two-page agreement is Elmbrook's first Act 10 restricted most public employee union collective bargaining to one issue: wages with increases capped by inflation.

The contract covers the previous school year (2011-12) and staff will be paid in lump sum (over two paychecks) for the 1.5 percent retroactive base wage increase from July 1, 2011 through June 20, 2012.

Totaling about $502,000, the increase will be distributed across the board to the district's approximately 519 full-time equivalent positions.

Elmbrook since their last contract expired June 30, 2011.

The Elmbrook Education Association sought the maximum 1.64 percent increase. But it accepted the district's proferred 1.5 percent increase in a single 45-minute bargaining session last summer. Once teachers were back in session last week, the EEA ratified the proposed agreement.

It was a stark contrast to previous union bargains that lasted 12 to 18 months and comprised dozens of pages.

The difference in offers was about $32,000.

The EEA was willing to give on the wage increase, because the not subject to bargaining rules, such as benefits, stipends for education advancement, pension, health and other working conditions.

Those issues instead are being codified in employee handbooks that are drafted by district administrators and School Board members with staff input.

Bargaining now will begin on a 2012-13 contract. 

Another 45-minute resolution may not be as easy. This time the district has budgeted a 0.8 percent increase for total 2012-13 teacher salaries, while Act 10 and CPI would allow an increase up to 3.5 percent.

Also Tuesday, the School Board approved a new employee health insurance plan that raises employee premium shares to about 9.5 percent from 7 percent.

Assistant Superintendent Keith Brightman predicted over the next two years that share will rise to the 12.6 percent imposed on state public employees under Act 10. Unlike the wage increase cap on local governments and school districts, Act 10 did not mandate employee health insurance contributions — it just gave local officials more freedom to impose them.

Lower than budgeted health costs helped Elmbrook create plans with employee contributions lower than the state's 12.6 percent guide, Brightman has said.

School Board members praised the teachers and their union for collaborating and compromising on wage and other issues.

Board member Meg Wartman said, "It has been very helpful that teachers are willing to sit at the table with us. I think we reach agreements that are better all around. I think we're in a good place."

Board member Glen Allgaier agreed. "We have certainly benefitted from their perspective. So thanks to the teachers."

"Well done," Board President Tom Gehl told administrators and staff.

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