By Tim Leeds
The Havre Education Association and the Havre Public Schools have agreed to a three-year labor contract for the district's 125 teachers.
The Board of Trustees Tuesday afternoon approved the tentative agreement reached through collective bargaining over the summer. HEA previously had rejected a tentative agreement reached through interest-based bargaining earlier in the spring.
"It's nice to have things settled as the school year starts so we know what the paychecks will be," said Marie Deegan, a member of the HEA bargaining team.
Deegan said the HEA ratified the contract Monday, with about 50 voting for it and 32 against it.
Ric Floren, director of operations for the district, said the new contract is very similar to the first tentative agreement, with whole-pot raises in the first year of 4 percent, the second of 3 percent and the third of 3 percent. Whole-pot increases apply to the total compensation for HEA members, including benefits as well as salaries.
He said the main changes from the earlier agreement were in the insurance benefits paid by the district and several differences in the language of the contract.
Scott Filius, the HEA spokesman for the bargaining unit, said earlier this summer that the whole-pot raises translated into salary increases of about 2 percent, 1 percent and 1 percent over the three years of the contract.
Deegan said the HEA would have preferred pay raises of 4 percent, 3 percent and 3 percent, but realized that the state Legislature had limited the amount of money the Havre school district has to budget with and the district may not have been able to afford those raises.
The amount paid by the district for health insurance was increased from $256 a month to $278 a month, which covers the entire premium for health, dental and vision for the teacher. The contract also includes mandatory increases to at least $285 per month in the second year of the contract and at least $290 in the third year. Those increases are not part of the 3 percent whole-pot increases for those years. Floren said the amount a teacher with a family of four or more will have to pay for premiums is about $350 per month.
After the original negotiations in the spring, the HEA was told by its insurance carrier that premiums would increase by 32 percent. Deegan said the HEA chose a new insurance contract with slightly lower premiums and coverage to help offset the increase.
Deegan said the other changes in the contract were some alterations in sick leave and medical leave and some changes in the wording.
She said the HEA would have preferred a shorter contract than three years, "but that's the way the negotiation process works."