The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 10, 2012

Citizens group criticizes latest Jefferson contract

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — The Jefferson Area Local School District Board of Education approved a wage re-opener with the district’s classified employees during a special meeting Friday morning.

The unanimous vote approved the agreement with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE), Local 419, for a one-year period, July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013. Superintendent Doug Hladek said the annual wage re-opener is part of the negotiated agreement with the 71 classified employees.

The employees agreed to no wage increases and no longevity increases. Further, employees will have to pay 10 percent of their health care insurance premium; it has been at 5 percent.

Also as part of the agreement, the school district agreed to increase the amount of life insurance on each classified employee from $10,000 to $20,000 “at a small cost to the district,” Hladek said.

The superintendent said that the agreement approved Friday basically mirrors the wage re-opener made with the teachers earlier this year.

The agreement will save the district some money because the cost of health insurance premiums will rise 4 percent next year. Further, Hladek said the district’s five-year plan assumed insurance premiums would rise 8 percent annually.

The classified contract allows employees who work as few as four hours a day to have 90 percent of their insurance premium paid by the district.

Several members of the grass roots group, Jefferson Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, attended the meeting and afterwards criticized the board for not making employees pay a greater share of their premiums.

Loreto Accettola, a member of the citizens group, said that in 2006, state workers in Ohio paid, on average, 22.6 percent of their health insurance premium.

“We just want (Jefferson Local employees) to pay their fair share and get in the real world,” he said.

The 10 percent that classified workers will pay toward their insurance is in line with local districts in the county, however. At Grand Valley Local, teachers pay about 10 percent, whereas classified employees pay about 6.25 percent. Any classified employee who works four hours or more a day qualifies.

In Buckeye, the employee’s contribution is capped at 5 percent of the premium. An employee must work six or more hours a day to receive insurance at that rate. Employees who work four to five hours a day must pay 45 percent of the premium.

In Pymatuning Valley Local, an employee who works six or more hours a day pays $40 a month for single coverage and $80 a month for family. A percentage was not available.

Accettola said that Jefferson’s school board is signing agreements and setting a liberal threshold for insurance that it can’t afford. He said the school board members have social and/or professional connections to district employees that prevent them from fairly representing the constituents.

“We need to change the composition of the school board next election and make sure we have a system of checks and balances in the next round of contract negotiations,” Accettola said.

The citizens group has a Facebook page and meets in homes. The next meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday at 901 Route 46 South.