Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 30
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
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School District Renews Contract, Cuts Benefits

Linda Arntzenius

The Princeton Regional School Board of Education has approved a three-year contract with the union that represents the district's secretarial, custodial, maintenance, and aide staff.

The contract keeps annual increases in each of the three years from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2010, to 3.4 percent, down from 4 percent in previous years.

The Princeton Regional Support Staff Association (PRESSA) ratified the contract by a vote of 73 to 3. "The union knew what we had to work with and we were able to come out of the negotiations with an increase that is fair to our staff members and compares favorably with other districts in the region," said Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Lewis Goldstein.

The agreement recognized the district's difficult financial straits as demonstrated by the defeat of the school budget earlier in the year, he said.

About 150 staffers will be affected by the new contract.

New rules for health benefits were introduced. For the first time, PRESSA agreed to a contract that requires employees to contribute toward health benefits. For employees hired after July 1, the number of hours an employee must work to receive health benefits has been increased to 30 hours per week, up from 20 hours per week previously.

Employees will be asked to pay $200 toward the cost of single coverage; $300 toward the cost for parent-child/husband-wife coverage and/or $400 to offset the cost for family coverage.

The contract offers more opportunities for employees wishing to waive health benefits (in the case, for example, of those with a spouse also working for the district) or to receive a cash payment instead.

New employees will be required to choose from one of the three Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans instead of selecting from more expensive health care plan coverages.

The contract also requires that all employees pay more for the cost of all prescription drugs, except generics. Brand name drugs will rise from $15 to $20. Mail order drugs, now free, will cost $5 for up to a 90-day supply. Generic drugs, now $10, will stay the same.

New hires will also see a reduction in the number of vacation days allotted and a reduced number of sick leave days. In addition, newly hired employees whose work week is less than 30 hours will not receive leave time.

An employee attendance incentive program was eliminated from the contract. Leave replacement personnel will have a 60-day delay in the start of their health coverage and there will be no benefits for any leave replacement hired after February 1 of each school year.

Employees with students attending the Princeton Regional Schools will see a $250 increase in the cost of tuition payments in year two of the contract and another $250 increase in year three of the contract.

Currently about 6 workers will be affected. Mr. Goldstein expects that number to be between 10 and 15 for the next school year.

Maintenance employees responsible for shoveling snow during the winter season will have their hourly pay frozen at their 2007-2008 rates for the length of the contract.

Additionally, starting salaries will be frozen for instructional aides, custodians, and secretaries for the length of the contract. The Board of Education approved the new contract after spring negotiations with PRESSA were finalized on June 4. "Both parties walked away from the table satisfied," said Mr. Goldstein.

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