For the first time in 16 years, the Moorestown Township Public Schools Board of Education and Moorestown Education Association have reached a contract settlement prior to the current agreement’s expiration.
The BOE and MEA began negotiations for a new contract nine months ago and an agreement was made on May 27 between both parties, more than a month before the June 30 expiration. The new contract will run from July 1 to June 30, 2019.
“I am pleased because this is the first time in well over a decade that our board has successfully reached an agreement with the MEA in May, before the existing contract ends … Now we can all concentrate together on providing the highest level of education for our students. I sincerely appreciate our partnership with the MEA to accomplish this,” BOE President Kathy Goldenberg said.
“It is a great feeling knowing that we have a contract to start the year,” MEA President Lisa Trapani said.
According to Goldenberg, the MEA approached the BOE to have informal meetings to discuss the contracts in an open manner without the use of outside negotiators. The BOE Negotiations Committee consisted of negotiations chairman Peter Palko, BOE member Caryn Shaw and Goldenberg, while the MEA was represented by negotiations chair Heather Trapani and Lisa Trapani.
“We believe that holding negotiations in this way allowed for a more personal exchange of information and requests,” Goldenberg said.
In the end, both sides consulted legal opinions for approval of the agreed upon issues, which resulted in the final language for a memorandum of agreement that was ratified by the MEA members and approved by the Board of Education members.
Both parties felt the contract is fair. Though not all parties could get what they wanted, a mutual understanding was made.
“We feel that it is a fair settlement. Neither side achieved all of its goals but we did achieve some of them,” Trapani said.
The contract highlights include:
• Recognizing and rewarding staff by maintaining the existing salary guide with minor enhancements
• MEA members continuing to contribute the current maximum allowable contributions toward their health care throughout the duration of this contract
• Changes to the base health care and specialty prescription drug plans, which will provide significant savings to both MEA members and the district
• An additional four hours of professional development time and more duty assignments
“Currently, the existing step increases outlined in our previous salary guide result in an average of a 3.10 percent increase annually over the next three years plus an average 0.35 percent raise, yielding a 3.45 percent average salary increase per year for the next three years. This salary increase is offset by a $2.2 million reduction in health-care costs, achieved by negotiating health benefit concessions, netting a significant reduction in health benefit expenditures for both the employees and the district, combined with the prescription mail order and health care base plan savings. The net percent increase is actually 1.31 percent per year for the next three years. With upcoming known retirements, we currently anticipate an actual net reduction in costs annually over the past three-year contract,” Goldenberg said.
Goldenberg hopes to continue to collaborate in the future with the MEA, as they will need to with the financial situation Moorestown faces. She feels the district does not receive its fair share of state funding.
“Our political leaders need to structure a method to adopt a fair funding formula for all districts throughout the state. For far too long, select districts are receiving disproportionate amounts of funding year after year. Other districts, such as Moorestown, continue to gain more students with disabilities that require additional supports, without adequate additional funding assistance from our state regulators. We are honored to educate all Moorestown students; however the funding from the state should follow the students’ needs,” Goldenberg said.