officials say a two-year labor contract with the Education Support Personnel union, representing approximately 200 support staff workers, will help the district avoid and layoffs.
The two-year deal calls for a four percent wage cut and concessions in health care and other fringe benefits. It will save the school district approximately $550,000 in the first year of the deal, according to Curt Ellis, director of human resources for the district.
The union represents paraeducators, custodians, office workers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school employees.
Board of Education President Lisa Slawson thanked the support staff workers for taking concessions.
“We can’t thank you enough. You guys (the union) have given and given and given. We know that. You guys have always been there for that,” Slawson said. “As a parent, I know it takes a village. You are what make this a special place to send our kids. I know my kids’ bus driver and I know the cafeteria lady. You’ve always stepped up to the plate.”
ESP Vice President Jim Sodt had little to say about the contract.
“I’m happy it is done,” said Sodt.
He said he hoped giving concessions prevented privatization, but, he said, support workers have learned to live with the threat of privatization.
“I hope it takes privatization off the table. But there are no guarantees,” Sodt said.
The deals comes on the heels of a that is expected to save the district the district $7.5 million over the two-year deal.
School board Trustee Dave Zimmer praised school employees and district officials for their cooperation during bargaining.
“Everyone looked at the situation and said ‘I want to do what is right. I want to put us in the right position, financially, over the long term,’” Zimmer said, adding that it was a goal to make sure school employees were well compensated with good benefits. “I think we’ve done that. I want to complement the leaders of the bargaining units and school administrators. I know it’s been a long struggle.”
The district has nearly wiped out its structural deficit, according to Ellis.
“Our board has been very clear. We need to have a balanced budget,” said Ellis. “You have to look to the employees and be grateful for their willingness to help us out, and really, to help the students out.”
Ellis said the concessions helped save local jobs.
“From our standpoint, we're very happy we have been able to achieve the financial goals we had without having to privatize and without having to lay massive numbers of people off,” Ellis said. “Given the circumstances, this is a solid agreement for all parties.”
There may be more concessions as the district negotiates contracts with administrators and managers.
“We are beginning to negotiate with our administrators and managers. We have a target with these other groups,” Ellis said.
In June, the that included the layoff of 17 teachers. The $2.6 million in staff reductions accounted for most of the $3.2 million in budget cuts.
Although the budget has not yet been amended, school officials have said the concessions should make layoffs unnecessary.
There are still financial unknowns for the district. The Michigan Senate is expected to take up later this month.