By Peter Elacqua
COLTS NECK – Representatives of the Colts Neck K-8 School District Board of Education and the Colts Neck Township Education Association (CNTEA) left a recent mediation session without an agreement on a new contract for the union’s members.
On Feb. 18, representatives from both sides met with a fact-finder from the state in an attempt to reach an agreement on a new deal.
CNTEA President Jeff Pringle said the union has evaluated information the board and the fact-finder presented and will conduct further research before moving forward with negotiations.
“I remain positive and it is my sincere hope the two sides will find a resolution in the near future,” Pringle said.
“The board remains committed to reaching a fair and mutually acceptable contract that is fiscally responsible and continues to provide exceptional staff for Colts Neck schools,” said the school district’s business administrator, Vincent Marasco.
According to Pringle, the board’s previous contract with the union was an agreement that was in effect from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2015. The union’s members are working under the terms of that expired contract.
Pringle said that under the previous contract, there was a 2 percent salary increase for 2012-13, a 3 percent salary increase for 2013-14 and a 3 percent salary increase for 2014-15.
He said that contract also provided a 2 percent salary increase for the 2011-12 school year, when teachers worked under the terms of an expired contract.
The annual percentage increases represent the increase in the total amount of money that was paid to the district’s teachers and not the annual percentage increase an individual teacher may have received in her salary during the years covered by the contract.
According to information posted on the school district’s website, effective July 1, 2015, health insurance premium costs increased by 15 percent ($477,000) from 2014.
The board’s representatives have proposed increasing the union members’ co-pays as a way to generate savings. The current co-pays are $5 for an office visit, $25 for an emergency room visit and no co-pay for ambulatory and outpatient surgery and an inpatient hospital stay.
All proposed increases would generate savings that would be shared among union members and the district, with the union’s share of the savings estimated at up to 30 percent, according to the board.
There are three schools in the district – the Conover Road Primary School, the Conover Road Elementary School and the Cedar Drive Middle School. According to a previous article, the district’s enrollment in 2014-15 was about 950 pupils. As of Jan. 31, the district’s enrollment was 955 pupils. A demographer’s report that was presented to the board in late 2014 projected that by the 2019-20 school year the district’s enrollment would drop to about 785 pupils.