New 5-year contract for VCSD teachers 

Kathy Fiero

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff
Voorheesville Teachers’ Association President Kathy Fiero said that she’s happy with the new contract her union signed with the school district in September. 

NEW SCOTLAND — After 18 months of working without a contract, members of the Voorheesville Teachers’ Association struck a five-year agreement last month with the school district that includes a cumulative 7.25-percent increase in pay and big changes to teachers’ health and prescription-drug coverage.

The new deal is retroactive to July 2018 and runs through June 2023.

Kathy Fiero, president of the teachers’ union, told The Enterprise on Monday that she is happy with the new agreement. She said that it’s fair a contract, adding, “I think it has benefits that will help both the district and the employees, and I think it will help out the whole prescription-drug problem that has been weighing down the budget.”

The union’s vote to approve the contract was 91 to 8, according to Fiero.

The contract was approved unanimously by the school board. 

Frank Macri, in his first school board meeting as Voorheesville’s superintendent, said the new contract offers the district a pathway toward fiscal sustainability, showing Voorheesville won’t “go down that road again,” he said, referring to the recent problems the district has had paying for prescription drugs.

Although Macri had been appointed to the job in September 2019, he wasn’t privy to the negotiations, he said, which he understood. “I just think, personally, if you’re not currently working for the district, you shouldn’t really be able to be a part of [negotiations],” he told The Enterprise. 

Macri added that the new agreement is in line with previous teachers’ contracts.

In September 2020, the starting salary of a Voorheesville teacher with a bachelors’ degree will be $46,585. The teachers progress up a 25-step pay scale with the top step paying $89,304 annually in 2020. More is paid to teachers with graduate degrees.

During the 2018-19 school year, the district’s self-funded prescription-drug plan, after years with barely any increase, saw a 35-percent spike in costs, which led to deep cuts to balance this year’s school budget. 

In an effort to stave off a repeat performance, the district this past spring made the decision to increase its prescription-drug premium payments from $125 per employee per month to $169 per employee per month, a move that has since allowed Voorheesville to slowly build back up its prescription-drug fund-balance reserve. The increases went into effect on July 1. 

Voorheesville ended its 2019 fiscal year with about $330,000 in its prescription-drug fund-balance reserve. At the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, the school district was able to move $300,000 from the end-of-fiscal-year fund balance to the prescription-drug fund-balance reserve, giving the district a total reserve of about $630,000 to start the new school year. As of November, the district’s prescription-drug fund-balance reserve was about $800,000.

The root of Voorheesville’s prescription-drug problem was that the district had been enrolled in a drug plan that has no mechanism for containing costs; whatever the price of the drug, the district had to pay it. The new teachers’ contract “includes a move to change the current prescription drug formulary to a managed care formulary. This formulary will include prior authorization, quantity limits, and step therapy which will help control costs moving forward,” according to the district. 

In addition, according to the district, “Significant changes to … health insurance ... were agreed upon.” The teachers will join the larger Capital Area Schools Health Insurance Consortium and Blue Shield of Northeastern New York. This plan has higher copays for items like emergency-room visits, but joining the larger group should yield some premium cost savings for both parties, the district said.

Twelve “very impressive” applicants

Board President Cynthia Monaghan announced at the Jan. 6 meeting that the district had received 12 “very impressive” applicants for the open board seat left vacant when Michael Canfora resigned in October

According to district policy, the only qualifications a candidate for the board needs are the ability to read and write, to be a voter in the district, and to be a resident of the school district for at least one year prior to the election — or appointment.

The appointee will be in the position only until the state-set May school board elections. The winner of the election will take over the seat in May rather than wait until the July reorganizational meeting.

Asked by The Enterprise if an appointment would be made at the special budget meeting on Jan. 27, Monaghan would not say.

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