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updated: 4/3/2013 4:21 PM

Dist. 94 approves contract for support staff

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Compromises on salaries, health insurance and retirement stipends ended 13 months of negotiations and led to approval this week of a three-year contract between West Chicago High School District 94 and the union representing its support staff employees.

The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2012, and lasts until June 30, 2015, for union employees including administrative assistants, deans' assistants, personal care and program assistants, clerks, custodians and maintenance workers. The Support Staff Association ratified the agreement Monday and the school board unanimously approved it Tuesday night, board spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

Compromises on the issues that stalled approval of the contract came during a six-hour negotiation session March 23 and resulted in a fair contract for both sides considering the economic conditions, Molinaro said.

Support Staff Association spokeswoman Monica Piszczek could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

"The end result is still some increases in salaries for employees, so they appreciated that," Molinaro said. "We do have some consistency to be able to budget for the coming years knowing what salaries will be."

The union agreed to a district proposal to offer yearly bonuses instead of raises to employees at the top of the wage scale for their position, while the school board agreed to increase the maximum pay for each position. The union previously had sought raises for all employees, with Piszczek saying bonuses would not be fair because they would not compound from year to year.

Molinaro said much of the final negotiation session was spent creating two salary range schedules -- one for the first two years of the contract that details the minimum and maximum pay for each position as well as the maximum for new hires, and another with the same information adjusted for the contract's third year.

Clerks and program assistants will be the lowest paid under the contract, with salaries ranging from $11.01 an hour to $22.37 an hour in the first two years of the contract, and increasing slightly to between $11.12 and $22.60 an hour during the third year.

Maintenance employees will be the highest paid in the Support Staff Association, making between $18.10 and $36.81 an hour in the first two years of the contract and between $18.29 and $37.81 an hour in the final year.

The majority of union members will receive raises totaling 7.25 percent over three years, while those at the top of the wage scale will receive 7.25 percent in total bonus money instead, according to the contract, which is posted on the district's website.

For health insurance, Molinaro said the board backed off an attempt to require new hires to contribute more toward their coverage.

Employees will pay 15 percent of the cost of four insurance plans and 25 percent of the fifth and most costly during the first year of the contract. Beginning next school year, union members will contribute 30 percent toward the most costly insurance plan. And in the third year of the contract, they also must pay 20 percent of the second most costly plan.

A $500 incentive for employees who switch from the most costly no-deductible health plan to any of the other four options will be offered during the next open enrollment period as well.

The school board and union also compromised on retirement stipends before approving the contract. Up to $8,000 can be given to employees who retire before June 30 with more than 15 years of service. The maximum stipend decreases to $7,000 for union members retiring before June 30, 2014, and it decreases to $6,000 for those retiring after July 1, 2014.

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