New contract: 2.9 percent pay raise Auburn teachers retain spousal coverage

AUBURN — In a new, three-year labor contract, Auburn teachers have retained health coverage for spouses and will get 2.9 percent cost-of-living raises this year.

Including step raises, which average 1.7 percent a year for teachers with fewer than 19 years experience, the raises will cost taxpayers $593,103 in the next year, Auburn Superintendent Tom Morrill said Friday.

The contract was approved by teachers and the Auburn School Committee on Thursday night.

The contract "is a fair one," Morrill said. "We do recognize the talents and hard work of our teachers," he said. "We want to make sure we have a wage that will attract and attain good-quality teachers."

Teachers with spouses on the city's health care will have to pay more. They now pay 10 percent of their premiums, and will pay 20 percent, with taxpayers paying the remaining 80 percent. That rate is for teachers' spouses who have no other health coverage option.

Teachers with spouses who do have access to coverage from their employer will have to pay 30 percent of the premium, with taxpayers paying the remaining 70 percent.

Teachers who only need insurance for themselves will pay nothing for premiums; taxpayers will pay 100 percent. Those teachers used to pay for 5 percent.

Teachers with children will spend the same for health coverage, 7 percent, with taxpayers paying 93 percent.

Some teachers, especially those who don't need coverage for spouses, are making out well and will see more in their paychecks, while others will see their income flat after having to pay more for health care, said the teachers union president.

Reaction of membership about paying more for spouse coverage "is it's a bitter pill to swallow," said Timothy Wegmann. "It has harmed a number of people. In these tough economic times it's keeping people where they are (financially), regardless of the economic package that came through."

Having to pay more for spouses "is a bad precedent," Wegmann added. He worries it will be a model for other school systems to follow at a time when there's a national movement to cover all.

Wegmann said he's received e-mails from teachers, and one wrote that her husband is sick and needs kidney transplants, and now she'll have to pay more for health care.

For teachers like himself, who have a spouse and children on the city's health plan, what he pays in each paycheck will go up. "My wife can't get insurance," Wegmann said. "I'm going up bi-weekly from $72.55 to $150. It's doubling."

In their vote to approve the contract, teachers approved it by an overwhelming 91 percent. The margin "was not an overall approval of the what's in the contract, but more of an adjustment to the times and economic conditions," Wegmann said.

Morrill said that after two years of negotiations, "there was a compelling sense of moving forward" in a background of deteriorating economy.

When negotiations began in September of 2007, few imagined there would be such a change in the economy, Morrill said. As state tax incomes continue to underperform projections, Maine school districts face significant cuts. "The challenge ahead of us is steep," Morrill said.

Despite the economy, teachers will get bigger paychecks this year and after. In addition to next year's 2.9 percent cost of living hike, they will receive an additional 1.5 percent during each of the following two years. Teachers went without a cost-of-living raise last year, Morrill said.

Auburn teachers' salaries range from $30,000 for a beginning teacher to $54,101 for a teacher with a master's degree and 19 years or more experience.

The pay raises will take effect immediately. The changes in health premiums will begin in January. The school department is hoping to eventually save taxpayer money in health care, something they said they cannot control. They're hoping to save $90,000 the first year, "but we're really cautious about that savings until we see the final figure," Morrill said.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Let's close down the

Let's close down the schools. Give me a voucher for the 8k or so we spend, and I'll send my child to a private school. The Auburn teachers union is killing us. Greedy.

Lisa Wall's picture

Candiceanne, are you saying

Candiceanne, are you saying that 90% of teachers in Auburn took an increase in pay and spousal insurance at the cost of 10% of their peers? Here's a little info for ya. The school board offered teachers a $6,000/year increase in salary to drop spousal insurance. Sounds like a good deal if you don't have a spouse, but pretty devistating if you have a spouse who is terminally ill and can not get insurance, right? Well, approx. 50% of Auburn teachers do not need spousal insurance, yet they took a hit for those who do. Get your facts straight before you infer that Auburn teachers don't care about their co-workers. A $6,000 pay increase, especially in this economy, ON TOP of a cost of living raise sounds pretty sweet. Would you take the money knowing that your co-worker would be financial devistated? Something tells me yes.

 's picture

Quoting Yes Suh "... (the

Quoting Yes Suh "... (the Auburn School Committee) the spent somewhere in the neighborhood of...400K on a Portland law firm..."

I'd like to see the SunJournal investigate THAT... that money would have bought a lot of insurance coverage (or text books or heating oil...)

 's picture

Unbelievable. What poor

Unbelievable. What poor negotiation on the part of the Auburn School Committee.

I hope teachers will quit complaining. They've got a Cadillac of a health care plan. And raises when nobody else is getting them.

 's picture

Funny how Supt. Morrill

Funny how Supt. Morrill cites 575k cost to taxpayers of Auburn. A little history lesson:
An assistant superintendant position was created a few years ago to get Mr. Morrill ready as heir apparent. Following his assencion, his predecessor was rehired as consultant:
Cha Ching 40K or more, his old position was reactivated and filled, Cha Ching 100K or more, and because of the school committee's desire to break the teachers down in contract negotiations, they spent somewhere in the neighborhood of Cha Ching 400K on a Portland law firm with a marginal success rate to engage the bargaining unit the teachers put forward with some of the most draconian set of reversals seen yet in a Maine educators contract negotiation.
A more reasonable response to this could have been worked out with all carrying some of the burden, but instead, Auburn (and its citizens) have chosen to make boogeymen of the loyal experienced teaching staff with traditional families and many years of faithful
service to Auburn students. I include you, the citizens of Auburn because you have installed a school committee (and city council) that is blind to the needs of your schools in the name of false savings (that never seem to show up) in your tax bill. You are going to
have a hard time overcoming the long term effects of what you have done.
It has not been long since your city council in its family unfriendly pattern hurt your firefighters by marginalizing their insurance coverage, sending some over to spousal coverage available because wife/husband worked in the school department that you just decimated. So who is next? I hear the school administrators contract is up this year.
How about the police? Highway dept?
You are making it clear that you do not value experience or dedication of people who have chosen to serve your needs. I question if you can even understand. Seems like you can't remember anything. What did you save when you contracted trash collection to an outsider?
Yes suh

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

Well if the city admin is

Well if the city admin is such a coward maybe it is time we start a ref. to call ALL CITY, STATE, & County employees be ALLOWED ONLY PAID INSURANCE TO THE EMPOLYEE THEMSELVES!!!!
HECK THE ONES DECIDING THIS FIASCO WOULD LOSE THIER INSURANCE FOR THIER SPOUCE TOO, SO IT IS NO WONDER WE HAVE THIS &*^$&^% DOES ANYONE KNOW THE COST PER PERSON FOR THIER BENIFITS ONLY????? IT IS OVER A WHOOPING 30 thousand dollars that does not include salery!!!! WE HAVENT HAD AN INCREASE IN # YEARS AND THESE YO YOS WANT AND WANT LETS PRIVITISE THEM SEE HOW MUCH THEY LIKE THAT!!!!!

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