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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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The Oregon school board on Tuesday voted 3-1 to approve salary hikes in a new three-year contract with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE), a union that represents classified staff in the school district.

Oregon school board member Jeff Ziviski voted against the contract, saying after the meeting that the raises may have violated a promise made to voters last November that revenue from a proposed 3.95 mill operating levy would not be used for salary increases.

OAPSE members earlier ratified the agreement on Aug. 1.

The contract provides classified employees a rate increase of 3 percent for the 2016-17 school year, a 2 percent increase for the 2017-18 school year, and a wage re-opener during the 2018-19 school year. Healthcare contributions remain the same with employees paying 15 percent of healthcare premiums.

“After many long hours, I feel confident the administration and our negotiation team worked together to come up with a fair and solid contract for the hard working members of OAPSE local 320,” said OAPSE Local 320 President Leslee Holliday.

There are about 150 employees represented by OAPSE. They have not had a base wage increase since 2009.

“As superintendent, ensuring we have a prepared, skilled, and hard working employee base is critical to an efficient running system,” said Superintendent Hal Gregory. “This new three year agreement helps to ensure we will maintain and recruit talented support staff to carry out our mission to provide the best education and maintained facilities available for our students and community.”

Treasurer Jane Fruth said funding was made available for the wage increases because of significant savings in healthcare renewal rates and increased valuations of property leading to increased tax receipts.

Steps
Though members have not received a raise in seven years, they have received automatic “step” or pay increases in their wages that is built into their contracts.

Fruth said at the meeting that OAPSE has five steps for most jobs, but bus drivers only have three steps. Roughly 75 percent of the OAPSE staff are maxed out at the top step and will not receive any more.

She said the raises, including benefits, will cost the district about $105,000 per year that will be drawn from the General Fund. Salaries for cafeteria employees are drawn from a separate fund. Nurses are paid by Federal Title VIB funds.

The district is currently negotiating a new contract for the Oregon City Federation of Teachers, whose contract expired July 31. Both unions usually seek similar terms in their contracts.

The district anticipates additional revenue from a tax abatement agreement with the new Oregon Clean Energy plant scheduled to begin in 2017.


Levy pledge
Ziviski told The Press after the meeting that he voted against the contract out of concern that the $1.9 million in revenue collected annually from the 3.95-mill operating levy passed last November could be used to fund the raises.

Last fall, just before the election, Gregory and School Board President Carol Molnar took out an ad in The Press that stated the $1.9 million would “exclusively” go toward extra-curricular activities and Clay’s Career Technical programs under local control rather than teacher salaries.

Molnar and Gregory appeared to backtrack on the pledge after the levy passed, saying that the revenue could possibly be used for district wide salary increases.

Gregory then stated unequivocally to The Press that the revenue would only be used for extra-curricular activities and Clay’s Career Technical programs, as he stated in the ad.

Ziviski is not so sure, since the levy revenue is kept in the General Fund. Though he said the classified staff deserved a raise, and said they are “a great group of employees who add tremendous value to the district,” his vote was about “keeping a promise” to voters.

“This vote came down to keeping a promise to the community that was made during the last levy, a promise that I believe was the main reason the levy passed,” said Ziviski. “I was not certain that the raises were not going to be paid out of the levy funds. I reviewed several financial models but each model showed something different depending on how you looked at the data. In order for me to approve the raises, I needed to be 100 percent certain that the levy was not being used to fund them. I needed to be certain I was not breaking a promise to the community because we are going to need the community again at some point, and if they can’t believe you, can’t trust you, then they most likely won’t support you. For me, my word is everything and I want the community to know that when I make a promise, I keep it.”

 

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