by LAURA HAYES
Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) teachers may see a minimum of a two percent salary increase, according to the proposed contract from the district to Winona Education Association (WEA), also known as the teacher’s union. The district’s initial proposal includes a one percent raise in both the current school year and the following year, a proposed $100 decrease in the current $2,200 district HSA contribution, and an increase in family coverage for health insurance.
The last time WAPS settled contracts in 2014, the district agreed to a combined $1,888,207 in salary increases and benefits for three years between the five WAPS unions: teachers, administrators, office professionals, educational assistants, and plant operation and maintenance, requiring mediation with union representatives. Then, the cost for the teacher’s union contract settlement amounted to a $485,948 increase in the 2013-2014 school year and a $765,65 in the following 2014-2015 school year, totaling $1,251,599.
This current, initial district proposal would add an additional one percent adjustment in the current 2015-2016 school year, and another one percent adjustment to the salary schedule the following 2016-2017 year. It would also eliminate the third pay step and add an additional step to the top, equaling one percent.
Presenting the proposal, WAPS Human Resource Director Patricia Blaisdell said that this would guarantee that every teacher would get a minimum of a two percent increase in his or her salary. Blaisdell said that the one percent adjustment for the current school year was already factored into the WAPS budget. According to the 2016 preliminary budget, the district paid $24,179,295.23 in general fund budget expenditures for salaries in 2015.
Also in the contract proposal is a change to group insurance for the 2016-2017 school year. WAPS proposed contributing $2,100 — $100 less than currently paid — to teachers’ HSAs, or health savings accounts, and increasing family coverage by $675 annually. Single coverage premiums are fully paid by the district, which would continue under the new proposal.
“We do recognize that insurance. I think it’s an issue for everyone,” Blaisdell said. She continued, stating that the district spends millions of dollars on insurance every year.
WAPS proposed continuing to pay teachers a $30 per hour rate for instruction outside of the school day. Blaisdell said that this could include instruction both after school and during the summer.
The district is not looking at changes for teachers’ leaves of absences. Blaisdell said that school districts throughout the state and country are having difficulty finding quality substitutes when teachers are not in the classroom.
“Our goal is to keep people in the classroom as much as possible,” Blaisdell said. She added that two leaves of absence appeared to be the average.
WAPS negotiations committee will continue to meet with WEA representatives until a contract is settled. Keep reading the Winona Post for more updates to this story.