Groups settle on 3.37% increase across base salary, insurance bump
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – For the second year in a row, the Fort Madison Education Association and Fort Madison school district reached a contract agreement on the first day of negotiations.
According to Cory Byrne, the president of the Fort Madison teacher’s union, the district and staff settled on a 3.37% increase in base pay, plus an increase in health care benefits to cover an individual $1,000 deductible policy and dental insurance.
With the insurance benefits, the total package results in a 4.07% increase for the union.
The district started their proposal with a 2.01% increase in base pay on Monday when the two sides both offered their initial proposals in open session. That percentage would have resulted in a $325 increase on the starting base pay to $35,010, with incremental increases along the teacher seniority step scale.
The teacher’s union initially proposed a 5.7% increase in the base and asked for a $700 increase in monthly insurance allocations, which was sufficient to cover the cost of the $1,000 deductible medical plan.
On Monday, Sonya Sirois addressed the board regarding the teachers’ union proposal.
“If there ever was a time to show educators respect and professional courtesy, the time is now,” Sirois said.
“Teachers have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep our students engaged academically, socially and emotionally.”
She said teachers are dealing with larger classrooms, new curriculum implementations, and unfilled support positions.
FMEA Chief Negotiator Kerry Cooper said the district’s financial management strategy has been to save money as seen through the district’s increasing spending authority.
“The district is in a financial position to offer and sustain more competitive wages for their employees,” she said.
Cooper said the growing unspent balance of 23.2% compared to 19.2% is difficult for the district to explain.
“Our tax dollars are being funneled into district savings. FMEA contends that public schools should be spending public money on what it was intended for, not continuing to save from year to year.”
Sirois said according to Basic Educational Data Survey (BEDS) data the district submits to the state, Fort Madison ranks 322 out of 327 state districts in health coverage benefits, including the increased allocation that went to newer teachers last year.
Teachers carrying family insurance pay more than $1,000 out of pocket and Sirois said those insurance rates are projected to increase again in 2022.
After each side presents their initial offers, the meeting is closed to the public as negotiations are allowed to be held in private under state closed meeting laws.