MADISON — Several months ago, the 25 bus drivers and custodians in School Administrative District 59 were anxious.

A subcommittee comprising various district leaders was evaluating whether to cut their positions and hire cheaper subcontractors to replace them.

On Monday night, though, the workers got good news: They will keep their jobs.

After about 10 days of negotiating, the school board voted unanimously to approve a three-year contract for the Madison Area Education Association’s Education Support Professionals unit, which represents bus drivers, custodians, kitchen staff and education technicians.

“This is huge for us. Six months ago we were talking subcontracting. Now we’re good for three years,” said Suzanne Bassett, a custodian and vice president for the union unit.

District officials also seemed pleased with the contract, which calls for some compromises on both sides.

“I’m very satisfied. Everybody just needed to be reasonable and work it out, and that’s what happened,” Troy Emery, Madison chairman of the board, said.

Superintendent Todd LeRoy said the contract takes nothing away from current employees.

It calls for a wage freeze, but current employees will still receive their allotted increases depending on years of service. Health benefits will remain the same.

New workers hired after June 30, though, will have to pay a portion of the single health insurance plan. And the salary scale for new hires will decrease 5 percent.

LeRoy said the original bids from subcontractors would have provided a significant savings, but the subcommittee decided to negotiate with staff members first before making a decision on the contracted service.

Even with the union agreeing to certain changes, plus a retirement and a reduction of a bus driver because of fewer bus runs in Starks, it still would have been slightly cheaper to go with the contracted service, LeRoy said.

“But that’s when the question comes in: What do you owe your local people?” he said. The district decided it was more valuable to keep the current workers than to save a few thousand dollars.

Chris Roy, who works in the district’s building maintenance department and was on the subcommittee evaluating subcontractor proposals, said the contract is fair. New hires will know the pay scale and benefits options when they are considering accepting a job, he said.

Ronald Chillington, a history teacher at Madison Area Memorial High School and president of the Madison Area Education Association, described the contract as “an amicable deal for this type of economy we’re in.”

The district will pay 100 percent of health insurance costs for those working more than 30 hours per week, according to the contract. The plan does not include health benefits for the workers’ families.

Employees who are hired after June 30 will pay 15 percent of the single coverage plan.

The district will pay about $19 monthly toward current employees’ dental insurance costs. For new employees, the district will make dental insurance available, but the cost will be the employee’s responsibility.

Overtime pay is calculated at time and a half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Employees are entitled to 15 sick days per year.

The board retains the ability to appoint a committee to look into subcontracting services.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]

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