VIROQUA - The Viroqua Area School Board approved a memorandum of understanding Thursday extending contracts with three employee staff unions, which all gave "significant concessions" to the district.
District Administrator Dr. Robert Knadle said that the Viroqua Education Association, Viroqua Educational Support Personnel Association and the Viroqua Area Transportation Association - the unions for teachers, support staff and bus drivers - each committed to four key changes. These include union employees contributing 12.6 percent toward their health insurance premiums, contributing 50 percent toward their retirement plans with the Wisconsin Retirement System, accepting a wage freeze and agreeing to the suspension of progressive "steps" in pay. The memorandum of understanding extends to the 2011-2012 school year, ending on June 30, 2012.
"We absolutely have the concessions we needed to create a budget for the 2011-2012 school year," Knadle said. "This puts us in line with what other districts in our CESA (Cooperative Educational Service Agency) are doing. It was a benefit to us."
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Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill and the pending biannual state budget have included plans to eliminate collective bargaining for state unionized workers. Unions representing these workers across the state have sought to have future contracts ratified before language in the budget repair bill and the pending state budget goes into effect. The concessions given by the unions are similar to benchmarks sought from public unionized employees following the state's proposed budget.
Knadle said under the circumstances, with the district facing diminished shared revenue under Walker's plan, that the contract "was fair and the right thing to do."
"All three unions were good to work with," Knadle said. "They clearly understood what we needed."