The Kenosha Unified School Board Tuesday night approved a teacher contract that includes the maximum 2.44 percent base wage increase for the 2019-20 academic year.
The board approved a similar increase on base wages for non-represented employees based on the maximum consumer price index, along with level and tier salary advancements for all employee groups.
In addition, all full-time equivalent employees, who are actively employed as of Tuesday will receive a $500 stipend to be paid before the end of June. Part-time equivalent staff members would be paid on a prorated basis.
The board voted 4-0 with one abstention on the three items. Voting in favor of the measures were board members Rebecca Stevens, Mary Modder, Tony Garcia and Dan Wade, board president. Abstaining was board member Todd Battle, whose wife works as a teacher in the district. Board members Gary Kunich and Tom Duncan were absent.
The vote on the teacher contract comes two weeks after members of the Kenosha Education Association unanimously ratified the tentative agreement reached between the union and the district. The agreement was quickly reached at a collective bargaining session between the district and the KEA on May 9. Union members then voted to ratify on May 14. The 2.44 increase goes into effect July 1.
In March, the district ended its relationship with long-time health insurance provider WEA Trust, with the School Board favoring a three-year agreement with United Health Care’s plan filed in Wisconsin. The district is expected to save more than $18.3 million, or 30.6 percent, on health care costs this year and, as result of the savings, was able to offer base wage increases in accordance with the maximum consumer price index level and level and tier advancements to staff.
The stipend approved by the board for active staff is a one-time payment for the 2018-19 year.
With the approved stipend, the district is budgeting about $1.5 million to be paid to staff, according to Tarik Hamdan, the district’s chief financial officer. The funds used would come from nearly $2.5 million in savings due to staff vacancies for budgeted teaching positions and benefits.
“Now, as we get closer to the end of the year, we’re projecting that we would spend around 98 percent of that $103.3 million set aside for district funded teaching staff, which leaves you with a decision of approximately $2 million plus with the benefits added almost $2.5 million,” he said. “Now’s your opportunity to do something with those funds.”
During deliberations, board member Rebecca Stevens said she would like to have given staff a larger stipend.
“We feel confident moving forward we’re going to … have more opportunities to be supportive in some of those areas that we do need dollars on,” she said. “I’m appreciative that the full board is in favor of doing this, and it lessens the blow a little bit.”
Wade said he was in favor of the stipend, but that, in the future, he would like it to go to the classroom.
“I don’t think any of those funds went to who we work for, and that’s the students of this district,” he said. “I think it’s important at some point in time … we do have to keep the students in mind. That’s what we all say. We’re here for the kids.”