At its Jan. 23 meeting, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Board of Education approved a new three-year negotiated agreement with its Teachers’ Association, concluding a bargaining process that began during in the spring of 2017.
Members of the Teachers’ Association voted on January 12, 2018 and overwhelmingly ratified the agreement, which covers the period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2021. There are approximately 290 members of the BH-BL teachers bargaining unit.
After six years of a frozen salary schedule where teachers on steps 1-24 of the teachers’ contract received just their step increment increase, the new agreement provides for a salary step improvement of 1.93 percent in 2018-19, 0.88 percent in 2019-20 and 0.84 percent in the 2020-21 school years. This improvement is in addition to any step increment increase teachers may be scheduled to receive. The number of steps in the schedule increased from 24 to 27. \Additionally, the agreement establishes a new salary schedule for teachers hired after July 1, 2018 which provides for more uniform salary step increments than existed in the previous contract. This new step schedule also increases starting pay for newly hired teachers. Making the step schedule more gradual and uniform over time helps the district plan for even salary increases, stay beneath the tax cap year to year, and better aligns BH-BL teachers’ salary schedule increment growth with the majority of other Suburban Council school districts.
Along with the salary schedule change, BH-BL teachers and the district agreed to an increase in health insurance contribution rates for the traditional indemnity health insurance plan (TB 907) offered by the district. For those choosing that plan, the district’s contribution will not exceed the amount it contributes to its other BlueShield plan, which is a significantly more cost-effective plan. Under this agreement, a participant’s contribution in the TB 907 will increase from 20 percent of the premium cost to approximately 51 percent of the total premium cost. Savings realized from this increased health insurance contribution will be used to offset the improvements to the salary schedule described above.
“Our teachers are among the most dedicated, talented, and innovative individuals in the profession,” says Superintendent Patrick McGrath. “The health insurance concessions, along with the forward-thinking approach to structuring the salary schedule, helped us to develop a sustainable contract that appropriately recognizes their value.”
District officials estimate this agreement will result in an overall budget increase for teacher salary and benefits of 2.24 percent in 2018-19, 1.74 percent in 2019-20, and 1.80 percent in 2020-21. These projections take into account the health insurance concessions and the new step schedule along with assumed retirement breakage and no increase in staff.
Compensation for coaching teams, advising clubs, or assuming additional duties were adjusted to reflect changes in the “cost of living” and the increased responsibilities of these positions. Over the life of the contract BH-BL coaches will see an increase between $350 and $550 depending on years of experience, and district club advisors will immediately see an increase in compensation of approximately $150.
“The school board appreciates that the parties involved in the bargaining process came to a timely agreement that is fiscally responsible and in keeping with the district’s long-term goals,” says Board President Jennifer Longtin. “We value our outstanding faculty and know that their dedication and commitment to our students is what makes BH-BL one of the top schools in the region.”
The new contract also addresses instructional matters. Changes were made to provide flexibility in the teachers’ day that will allow for increased opportunities for student learning and creative scheduling at the middle school.
"The TA and administration have an amiable and mutually respectful working relationship, which is why we were able to identify areas within the current contract where changes could be made and then work through the negotiating process in a very genuine way," says BH-BL Teachers' Association President Brad Thomas. "And with the overwhelming faculty approval rate, the agreement can be characterized as a fair and reasonable contract."
The district's negotiating team was led by school attorney Robert Van Vranken and Superintendent Patrick McGrath. High school teacher Raelene Noll and BH-BL Teachers’ Association President Brad Thomas led the negotiations on behalf of the Teachers’ Association.