On Monday evening, December 14, 2015, the Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education approved a new three-year contract with the members of the Hopewell Valley Education Association (HVEA). The terms of the agreement between the Board and the 401 member association include health benefit modifications, salary increases, and other various concessions. The agreement replaces the former contract which expired on June 30, 2015 and is retroactive from July 1, 2015 and runs through June 30, 2018.
“I would like to thank the HVEA representatives and the Board negotiations committee for their efforts to come to agreement with a fair contract,” said Lisa Wolff, HVRSD Board President. “The process, timing, and eventual results led to a win for our staff, students, and community.”
Effective January 1, 2016, HVEA staff will pay a $30 co-pay for brand-name medications. The co-pay for generics remains at $15 under the new contract. Employees currently pay $15 and $20 in co-pays for generic and brand-name drugs, respectively.
Under the new agreement, effective January 1, 2016, Direct Access 20/30 health benefits plan will become the base medical plan for all new teachers hired. The previous base plan was Direct Access 15. The school district will also provide an incentive stipend for current teachers to switch to the Direct 20/30 health care plan.
“Direct Access 20/30 premiums are significantly less than Direct Access 15 premiums. The switch will save the district, staff, and ultimately, the tax payer money,” added Wolff.
The HVEA contract includes a 2.8 percent pay increase for this 2015-16 year, followed by annual increases of 2.6 and 2.4 percent in 2016-17, and 2017-18, respectively. HVEA staff will receive their retroactive pay increase since July 1, 2015 in their December paycheck.
Acknowledging that the 2.8 percent salary increase for 2015-16 is the greatest 2015-16 increase in Mercer County, Ms. Wolff explained that the increase was offset by prescription plan savings. “Since our contract settled more quickly than agreements in neighboring districts, we were able to both realize the prescription savings sooner and consequently share those savings with our teachers.”
“Not only did the time-frame provide an opportunity for shared savings,” explained Wolff, “but also, it is refreshing for the community to skip the public tension that often accompanies negotiations. Both the HVEA and the Board of Ed kept the focus on our students’ best interests throughout the process.”
Other important items that were changed in the negotiated agreement are:
- The amount of time a teacher can take on a personal leave of absence was reduced from 24 months to 12 months thus providing less disruption of instruction and improved staffing predictability..
- As of 2017-18, Direct Access 10, the most expensive insurance option, will no longer be available, thus allowing the district to avoid the proposed “Cadillac Tax” imposed under the Affordable Care Act.
- A teacher may be given the option of providing academic assistance for students in place of completing an assigned duty, resulting in improved student contact time.
- The rate teachers are paid for professional development (such as training courses) taken outside of contractual work hours and days was set at $26 per hour.
- Also, the board of education may offer training to teachers on a voluntary basis outside of the regular contractual work day or work year for district-wide initiatives.
“The overwhelming Board support of this contact is a vote of confidence recognizing the hard work and dedication of our Hopewell Valley Education Association members,” said Lisa Wolff.
Also during the meeting on Monday evening, the Board of Education approved and amended the current agreement with five member Hopewell Valley Directors/Supervisors Association to synchronize health benefit changes to the current HVEA agreement.