By Sue Botos
After canvassing the city on Sept. 29 to get a feel for residents’ mindset regarding Issue 114, the 4.9-mill operating levy that will appear on the November ballot, school board members and administrators found a recurring theme: concern over potential raises should the measure pass.
In an effort to make salaries a nonissue in the campaign, the Rocky River Teachers’ Association (RRTA) and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Chapter 381 (OAPSE), have agreed to extend their current collective bargaining contracts for an additional year and to freeze base pay for a third consecutive year. The contracts will be effective from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014.
At a special meeting on Oct. 4, the school board approved terms, agreed to earlier in the day, that will put a hold on the pay of all district employees, including administrators. In addition, employees agreed to increase their health care contribution to 12 percent, while continuing concessions agreed upon last year, which include prescription copays and noncoverage of spouses eligible for their own medical plan. Last year’s agreement also raised employee contributions to their health care from 3 percent to 11 percent.
While the unions agreed to base-pay freezes, teachers will still be eligible for “step” increases in pay based on further education and longevity.
“We want to thank everyone for coming forward. This showed a lot of leadership in their willingness to come forward,” remarked Superintendent Michael Shoaf at the meeting.
RRTA president David Opdycke and OAPSE chapter President Vicki Owens felt the pay freeze was a small price to pay when it comes to the continued success of the district. “We hope that this contract extension will help the public focus on and support Issue 114,” commented Opdycke. “The passage of this levy is essential for the preservation of the programs that foster the level of student success traditionally seen in Rocky River.”
Owens commented, “The OAPSE membership’s support of this contract extension will help the district financially and enable us to continue our tradition of excellent schools.”
“We wanted to take this off the table. This is not what the levy is all about,” said Shoaf at the meeting, where he credited all school employee groups with making this contract extension possible.
School board President Kathy Goepfert pointed out that numerous meetings and discussions occurred in a short time frame in order to reach the agreements. “To get all of this done on a week’s notice is admirable,” she stated.