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New Teachers' Contract to Save Briarcliff $3.3M

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – A new three-year teachers' contract that school officials say will save the district $3.3 million over three years was unanimously approved by the Briarcliff Board of Education this week.

"We had a very unique negotiations process because the players kept changing," said Jeanne-Claire Cotnoir, a Briarcliff High School social studies teacher who is the president of the Briarcliff Teachers Association. "Once all the dust settled and nobody changed any more, we were able to get the work done very quickly. We were able to clarify our needs and (the district's) needs and come to a middle ground."

According to Guy Rotondo, president of the Briarcliff Board of Education, the greatest amount of savings stems from the new contract having smaller salary increases per year, compared with the previous five-year teachers' contract.

The new contract gives teachers an average salary increase of 2.3 percent over three years.

"The old contract had (salary) increases that were quite a bit larger than 2.3 percent. So basically, it's a lessening of the increase," Rotondo said.

According to the Briarcliff School District's website, the starting salary for a Briarcliff teacher with a bachelor's degree is $47,131. The highest possible teacher's salary for a senior teacher with a PhD is $108,865.

"We are all very aware that with the state of the economy, we needed to be fair," said Cotnoir. "Our (salary) increases are modest, but nobody has a problem with that because we realize that our personal home expenses have gone up but we're all in the same boat. We had to think, 'How can we work together?'"

Another cost-saving measure in the new contract comes from teachers' and retired teachers' health care insurance contributions.

Under the old contract, working teachers paid 10 percent of health care insurance costs, and the school district paid 90 percent. Under the new contract, working teachers will pay 15 percent of health care insurance costs, and the school district will pay 85 percent.

For retired teachers, there will be a new three-tier system to replace the old system where the school district paid 100 percent of health insurance premiums for retirees with 10 years or more of service, and 90 percent of premiums for retirees with less than 10 years of service.

With the new system, retirees with less than 10 years of service will not receive any health insurance benefits. Retirees with 10 to 15 years of service will pay 30 percent of insurance premiums, retirees with 15 to 24 years of service will pay 20 percent of premiums, and retirees with 25 or more years of service will pay 10 percent of premiums.

"This will benefit the district over time by having a health care benefit that's tied to the good service employees have provided to us over the years," Rotondo said.

Rotondo noted that about $4 million, or eight percent of the school budget, goes towards health insurance premiums. Of the 440 participants in health care plans, 25 percent are retirees, the board president said.

"We were very happy with the good work that went on in the negotiations. Without our teachers' help and commitment, we couldn't possibly have achieved as much," Rotondo said.

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