Board approves contracts

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Teacher salaries at Hollidaysburg Area School District will rise about 3 percent after the school board approved a new contract Wednesday.

With all members present for the board meeting on Wednesday, except for Troy Keefer who was out of town for work, the school board unanimously approved a teacher contract effective Sept. 1 through August 31, 2016.

In exchange for the salary increase, which is reduced to about 2 percent for teachers at the top of the pay scale, the teacher union agreed to a high deductible health care plan. That change benefits the district, Superintendent Robert Gildea said, because it lowers the district’s cost on health care premiums.

The contract ensures a zero cost increase to the district’s budget from last year, Gildea said.

Over the past few days, board President Ron Yoder and Hollidaysburg Area Education Association President Jim Murphy have both expressed satisfaction for having reached an agreement.

Anticipating negotiations would exceed the prior contract’s original expiration date of August, the union and board had extended the expiration date into the fall.

“I think it was significant, that in this day when many teacher contracts go on and on past the expiration date, that this board of directors and education association were able to arrive at a settlement prior to expiration of the agreement. Both parties should be commended,” district Solicitor Dave Andrews said.

Funding for school districts statewide is tight. Research from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center states the 2013-14 state budget includes allocations for basic education that amounts to an increase of $122.5 million, or two percent, from 2012-13.

However, the funding increase is still less than the approximately $160 million needed for mandated pension cost increases at the school district level in 2013-14 – meaning fewer dollars for classrooms, the center’s research states.

Overall, the state budget retains 81 percent of the state cuts to public school classrooms enacted in 2011. According to estimates from the policy center, the 2013-14 state budget equates a $385 dollar cut per student across the state.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.