Teachers at Hays USD 489 have a contract for the 2019-2020 year that gives them a raise and allowed the board to define its contributions to 2021 health insurance benefits. The ratification of the contract then allowed the board to approve a raise for classified and administrative staff as well.

With only a little discussion, the USD 489 school board voted 6-0 to accept the proposal at Monday night’s work-study session. Board member Lance Bickel was not present.

Teachers voted last week to ratify the proposal, 203 to 11.

The contract gives teachers a base pay increase of $1,900, which will be retroactive to the beginning of the fiscal year in July.

Teachers will start seeing that extra money on their March 25 paychecks.

“It will probably be March before we’re able to get everything out,” Superintendent Ron Wilson said in response to a question from board member Tammy Wellbrock.

“We can be much more diligent about it, get it right. That’s what I’ve asked for and everyone seems to agree,” said Keith Hall, interim director of finance.

The contract also sets the district’s contributions for premiums on next year’s health benefits. That issue had become one of the sticking points during negotiations, but it was an important one to set for the district.

Walker noted in an interview with The Hays Daily after the Jan. 29 negotiation session that contributions was not a new topic, but one the board decided it wanted to stick with in this year’s negotiations, urged by the district administration.

“It’s not as if these issues just popped up this year,” he said, noting Dean Katt, who was superintendent from 2013 to 2016, pushed for it. “Last year and this year, we agreed that we really needed to stick to that issue.”

“It was based on a lot of information, research and research on insurance costs,” Walker said.

“Sometimes a change like this might be necessary for people to consider policy changes that may be beneficial for them,” he said. “I think a lot of teachers will benefit because now they will be incentivized to pick an option that might be better for them, even if they don’t know it right now.”

In the 2021 insurance plan, the district will pay 100 percent of the monthly premium for a single coverage plan. The district will contribute $1,050 to any of the three family plans available to teachers.

The negotiation process has been a long one, and in fact, negotiators for both district and the Hays chapter of the Kansas National Education Association will begin training sessions later this month for next year’s negotiations.

Board President Mike Walker, in his second year on the board’s negotiation team, expressed relief Monday night the 2019-20 talks were over.

“I’m very happy we did reach an agreement along the road. I think we made some progress in some areas that we will be able to continue into the next round of negotiations. I’m happy that it’s over,” he said.

Wellbrock thanked Walker for his leadership through the process. Sophia Rose Young, who also served on the negotiating team along with Bickle, talked about the amount of work Walker in particular did.

“Mike put in a lot of hours and a lot of his free time. I don’t know how he did it and balanced everything and kept all the hairs on his head,” Young said.

After ratifying the teachers’ contract, the board moved on to approving 2019-20 contracts for administrative staff and classified staff — janitors, maintenance and clerical.

It has been common practice for the district to base raises for those staff members on what the teachers get, which this year is an equivalent to 4.9 percent.

Young had some reservations about the proposal, based mainly on seeing a percentage rather than an actual figure. She was concerned that not every employee would receive the same amount.

Classified staff salaries are on a scale based on years in the district and experience, where they can essentially move both horizontally and vertically along the spreadsheet.

The $1,900 was added to each cell of the pay scale spreadsheet, Wilson said, so it’s possible not everyone will receive that amount.

“Everyone’s getting at least $1,900, but then most people, they move down or move up or they move across,” he said.

“The 4.9 percent was calculated based off what the $1,900 raise was for teachers,” he said.

The raise will apply to classified staff employed by July 1, 2019, Wilson said.

Young said she understood after the explanation, and said her confusion was her own fault for being so involved in the teacher negotiations.

“I was so wrapped up with thinking about the teachers. I know that what we usually give the teachers, the joy gets spread around to everyone, but I’ve looked so hard and analyzed on my own to the teachers numbers I haven’t really paid much attention to the classified,” she said.

“I haven’t seen the percentage yet. I think the percentage to me is actually coming off as a bit of a shock because I’ve been seeing it as a number this whole time. Five percent is a nice raise for everyone. I feel good to be giving everyone a five percent raise,” she said.

She voted with the rest of the board to approve the contracts.