Last updated: September 06. 2013 8:22PM - 105 Views

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KATE LIEBERS

Staff Writer

The Olentangy School Board unanimously approved classified union workers’ negotiations Wednesday night, extending their contracts one-year with no annual salary or step increases.

Such negotiations will save Olentangy about $150,000, according to treasurer Rebecca Jenkins. This negotiation, combined with the previously approved salary and step freezes for non-unionized workers, brings the total district savings to $350,000.

Olentangy has about 260 classified union workers, including bus drivers as well as custodial, maintenance and field service staff, according to superintendent Wade Lucas. The bus drivers belong to the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 322; the others belong to OAPSE Local 39.

The district also has about 300 non-unionized classified workers including, but not limited to, central office and district-wide support staff, food service staff, secretaries, aides and mechanics.

“We appreciate the efforts of the classified employees coming forward,” said Lucas of the union members. “They do understand the plight and the economic conditions of not only Olentangy, but the entire nation.”

The union’s decision came after voters approved Olentangy’s 7.9-mill levy, expected to generate about $25 million annually for the district’s day-to-day operating expenses.

Even though voters passed a levy, the members of Local 39 and Local 322 understand that everyone must do his or her part in these tough economic times,” said OAPSE field representative Chad Caldwell in a release.

Yet a greater “driver of this whole financial piece” than the salaries is the district’s health insurance plan, Lucas said.

“We have to get that under control,” he said. “Our insurance benefit will change, it has to change, in order for us to continue to be sustainable as an organization.”

Ultimately, Lucas said that the district hopes to make the levy money last a year beyond the promised three.

The classified employees are, as part of the recent contract negotiations, invited to participate in the district’s process of selecting more cost-efficient health insurance.

The classified contracts’ expiration dates now sync up with those of the teachers, who approved a one-year contract extension last fall. Wade said these contracts included a zero-percent base increase with a step increase.

All three contracts are now set to expire on June 20, 2012.

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