Teacher benefits, salary schedule up for discussion at Mason City School Board meeting

(ABC 6 News) – The Mason City Education Association continues its push for better working conditions at Monday’s school board meeting. This is after the district confirmed its plans to get rid of a $300 benefit and salary schedule last week.

The MCEA says it’s against those changes. They want a guaranteed salary schedule based on how long they’ve been working at the school.

Related: School rejects Mason City teacher benefits, salary schedule

“We really were looking to keep the benefit of our (SIC) annuity which can be used to go towards family insurance or to a tax-sheltered annuity and I mean we also really wanted to keep our salary schedule which was taken,” said Jennie Velthoff with the MCEA.

The MCEA says the board won’t actually talk to the organization themselves. Adding the administration says the board won’t consider their proposal and has given teachers their final offer.

The district issued this statement late last week:

The Mason City Education Association (MCEA) and the Mason City Community School District (MCCSD) are currently at an impasse in their contract negotiations. A mediation session held earlier this month did not result in an agreement.

MCCSD remains committed to offering competitive compensation packages to its teachers, positioning the district favorably compared to both neighboring and larger districts within the state. Since 2018-2019, Mason City’s certified enrollment has decreased by 242.4 students. Mason City now ranks 30th in the state for certified enrollment.

For the 2023-2024 academic year, the average total salary for teachers in MCCSD is $71,874 for a 190-day contract, which ranks ninth in the state, excluding benefits. When including benefits, MCCSD teachers hold the highest average total compensation in the state at $102,776, according to the Iowa Association of School Boards. The district has proposed a $3,000 pay increase for each teacher for the next school year, equating to a 6% raise on base wages.

Iowa teachers are covered by the Iowa Public Employee Retirement System (IPERS), guaranteeing a lifetime monthly payment upon retirement. Additionally, MCCSD has historically offered an early retirement benefit. This year’s package was for $50,000 over five years to employees who have worked in the district for at least ten years and are at least 55 years old.

Previously, MCCSD has provided an additional retirement benefit: a $300 monthly Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA) contribution, available to all teachers and other MCEA bargaining unit members. Some educators have used this benefit to offset the cost of family health insurance.

However, due to projected funding constraints from declining enrollment, MCCSD plans to discontinue contributions to the teacher TSA. This decision, which is non-negotiable, is aimed at preserving the district’s future financial stability. The annual cost of the TSA program is $1.1 million, equivalent to the salaries of 16 teachers at the lowest pay rate. Continuing this benefit would necessitate reducing the number of teaching positions, thereby increasing class sizes.

The district covers the full cost of individual health, dental, and vision insurance for teachers. Currently, for those with family health coverage, the single premium and the $300 TSA can be applied toward the family premium. For next year, Family health insurance rates have been set to ensure that no teacher faces higher family insurance costs.