Union and Bordentown school board reach contract settlement

The Bordentown Regional Education Association (BREA) and the Bordentown Regional School District Board of Education have reached a contract settlement.

The motion to ratify and approve the settlement of the contract negotiations between the BREA union and school board came from the board members at a June 12 meeting at Bordentown Regional High School.

The new contract will cover the period of July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2022.

Cheers and applause erupted in the room from a majority of the BREA members upon the board’s approval of the settlement, which is composed of approximately 400 members spanning several occupations such as teachers, counselors, aids, custodians and transportation workers.

After the previous contract between the union and school district expired on June 30, 2018, district officials reported that the BREA members and the district’s negotiations committee held more than a dozen meetings over the course of a year and a half to reach a new settlement.

A contract between the union and school district entails components and agreed terms of items for the union members such as salary and wages, compensation, benefits, time off, paid leave, sick days, evaluation procedures and insurance protection.

When working under an expired contract, union members are limited to the agreements settled upon from that contract until a new contract replaces it.

Stephen Heberling, chairman of the district’s negotiations committee as well as a member of the school board, expressed his stance on the settlement.

He made his feelings known before the board voted at the meeting to explain to attendees what the negotiation process entailed as well as his appreciation for the district’s staff and board members.

“In the end, the settlement was not what we had hoped for, however, I’m 100% certain the BREA would say the same exact thing,” Heberling said. “The settlement is fair to our valued staff members as well as the taxpayers of this district.

“Nobody ‘won’ these negotiations. What we accomplished is a deal that both sides can live with and get back to our top priority, which is educating the students,” Heberling said.

“No one in this room wanted to get this deal done before June 30, 2018, more than I did – no one […] What I would like to convey more than anything to people [conflicted about the negations] is to understand is that this contracted negotiation is not a strategy and has nothing to do with a lack of respect or appreciating the wonderful staff we have in Bordentown schools,” Heberling explained.

Under the agreed settlement of the new contract, officials said that union members will receive an average salary increase of 3.2% over the course of the four-year contract period, which officials said is consistent with other school districts in Burlington County.

Heberling reported that the fourth year of the contract was added with intention to give the union and district officials time to renegotiate a new contract when the current one comes to its expiration date. He said that negotiations for a new contract typically need to begin a year prior to the current contract’s expiration date.

District officials said that negations between the union came to a standstill over the discussion of Chapter 78 relief for union members. The state legislation allows boards of education and local employee unions the ability to bargain over changes to employee contributions towards medical insurance premiums.

Although Heberling revealed that the union members wanted Chapter 78 relief, the district had to find a middle ground between the legislation and contributions toward union employee healthcare copay costs.

“With every contract negotiation, there is knowledge of what the other side is trying to accomplish and why they are trying to accomplish it,” he said. “We got a better of understanding of what problems Chapter 78 creates for them, and they got some understanding as to how increases in copays help to reduce the overall cost in healthcare, which is ultimately in their favor.”

District officials said that exact details of the contract settlement will be released online in the upcoming weeks.

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