The Lindenhurst board of education Wednesday night unanimously approved a new contract for the district’s teachers.
The 9-0 vote received a round of applause from the board and those in attendance at the specially called meeting and gives teachers their first contract in nearly five years.
“Congratulations, we do have a teachers’ contract!” District Superintendent Daniel Giordano said.
The Teachers Association of Lindenhurst, the union representing teachers in the district, ratified the proposed contract on Monday.
Since June 2011, teachers have worked under the conditions of the expired contract, which is allowed indefinitely under state law until a new agreement is reached. That contract included 2 percent annual step raises with no salary increases.
The contract approved Wednesday night, which takes effect July 1 and runs through June 2020, freezes step increases but provides for a flat annual raise of $2,000. Under the old contract, the average amount paid to TAL members in steps was $1,790. The current average teacher salary in the district is $99,209.
The new contract also increases new members’ health insurance premium contributions from 15 percent to 20 percent and ends health care declination payments for all new hires.
For existing members, the declination amount — given to those who turn down health insurance coverage — will be a flat amount of $9,000 per declination.
Current information on declinations was not available from the district but a spokeswoman said that in the 2014-15 school year, 159 members took the declination. The new amount is based on the single-payer rate from 2015 to 2016, rather than a rate that rises annually. According to school board president Donna Hochman, this will provide a savings to the district.
“This provides for forward-moving cost savings for the district,” Hochman said after the vote. “We weren’t looking for a one-shot infusion of money, but something that could be realized over a couple of years.”
Negotiations between the district and union were tense for years, reaching a low point in fall 2014 after the release of a report by a state-appointed fact finder, which the district requested after it said negotiations with the union were not progressing.
The report recommended a contract with mostly pay and step freezes or just one or the other in modest increases, a proposal the union rejected. At the time the district stated that it faced financial doom if the current contract conditions continued, a claim that the union leadership said was overblown.
TAL President Michael Pastore said the majority of his membership is supportive of the new contract. “I’m just happy we were able to come to a final resolution to this very long road that we have traveled,” he said.