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Contract OKed, privatization KO'ed

June 09, 2010 - Oxford Community Schools won't be privatizing its transportation services as both the district and union have agreed to a contract that will save approximately $200,000 annually.

"We've set (privatization) aside for now. We're not going forward with that," said Tim Loock, assistant superintendent of business and operations.

"We will not pursue (privatization) at this point," said Deputy Superintendent Nancy Kammer.

On June 3, the Oxford Board of Education voted 5-0 to approve a three-year union contract, set to expire Aug. 31, 2012, for the district's 45 transportation employees and 36 food service workers.

Board members Kim Shumaker and Carol Mitchell were absent.

"We're happy that it's resolved and glad that we can move forward and get back to business," Kammer said.

The contract, retroactive to Sept. 1, 2009, was previously approved 54-6 by Local 1472 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

"I give a lot of credit to the AFSCME group for their cooperation and bargaining," said Kammer, who's the district's chief negotiator. "I think overall it was a good contract for everyone."

Although the district won't realize any savings for the current school year, the schools are projected to save $200,000 or more annually for the next two years thanks to changes made regarding employee health benefits.

"That's where the biggest potential savings is," Loock noted.

Kammer agreed.

"That's the bulk," she said. "There are a few other adjustments that will save the district some money, but that's definitely the most significant cost-savings."

AFSCME employees agreed to switch to a "less expensive" health insurance plan. Instead of being covered by Blue Care Network HMO, they will now be insured by Blue Care Network Healthy Living.

They also agreed to changes concerning how much employees contribute toward their health insurance premiums.

"It's prorated based on the number of hours you work," Kammer explained.

Employees who work 40 hours a week will pay nothing toward their health care.

Those who work between 35 and under 40 hours a week pay 20 percent; 30 to under 35 hours pay 30 percent; and 26 to under 30 hours pay 50 percent of their premiums.

Anyone working under 26 hours a week is not eligible for health insurance.

Other concessions agreed to by AFSCME workers included giving up two personal days and two "act of God" days – a total of four days for which they were paid, but did not work. Union employees also agreed to decrease their uniform allowance by 50 percent.

Superintendent Dr. William Skilling expressed his appreciation to the bus drivers and food service workers in an e-mail.

"I am really grateful to the AFSCME group for working with our negotiation team to come up with a solution to save money for the school district and to avoid privatization," Skilling wrote. "I am sincerely appreciative for their willingness to do their part in helping Oxford Community Schools to navigate through the financially challenging times we are facing."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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