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School District Reaches Another Interim Union Agreement

Deal struck with AFSCME freezes pay, leaves only one more unit to bring on board to fix budget hole.

Superintendent Phil Ertl will present a memorandum of understanding Monday night to the School Board representing a pay freeze and higher benefits contribution package with the Wauwatosa School District's members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

This is the third such interim agreement being presented to the board for approval, as the Wauwatosa Education Association (WEA), representing teachers, and Wauwatosa Education Support Professionals (WESP), representing teaching aides had earlier agreed to similar deals.

One more agreement remains to be reached, with the Wauwatosa Education Support Association (WESA), which includes the district's administrative assistants.

All three of the agreements freeze salaries at the 2010-2011 level, require continued equal pension contributions to the Wisconsin Retirement System, and lock the employees into higher-deductible health care plans that go into effect Oct. 1.

The interim agreements became necessary when it was realized that with proposed state budget cuts to school districts that would likely go into effect before the savings proposed in the stalled budget repair bill, the district would be facing a $6.5 million shortfall before its own budget deadline.

The agreement with teachers was most critical because it represented $4 million in savings and had to be reached before June 1, when the district is required to inform teachers of staffing moves including layoffs. The WEA regular contract was set to expire June 30, which would have left them working under extension of the current conditions.

The agreement with WESP was of somewhat less concern because it represents far fewer employees who are paid much less.

But the AFSCME deal, which covers the district's custodians and other employees, is an important one because with a contract in place that runs through June 2013, those staffers had less incentive to reach a deal.

Ertl has repeatedly said that he would present a balanced budget to the School Board before the deadline at the end of June, and that he hoped with agreements with all unions that budget would include no program cuts or large numbers of layoffs.

With the AFSCME agreement, Ertl and his staff are another step closer to realizing that goal. Without any of the agreements, Ertl has said, more than 100 teachers would have likely been laid off, costing the district greatly in institutional experience, and class sizes would have had to increase by an average of 10 students. Even those measures would have still left the district more than $1.5 million in deficit, he said.

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