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After working more than 16 months with an expired contract, the East Aurora Faculty Association last week reached an agreement with the East Aurora School District that features a shorter work year and higher insurance contributions.

The four-year contract, which expires June 30, 2016, will reduce faculty workdays from 190 to 188, raise salaries an average of 1.34 percent per year, slow raise increases at the top of the step schedule and increase teacher health insurance contributions from 5 to 10 percent.

Superintendent Brian Russ said the new contract also calls for $90,000 in overall teacher givebacks in benefit trust contributions.

The School Board approved the contract last week, when the board also decided to move the community budget forum to January – a full two months earlier than last year.

“We want to engage the public early enough in the process so we can take their comments into consideration,” the superintendent said. He said the board needed to make decisions, including setting the tax levy, sooner rather than later.

Discussions will include strategies to close an estimated $2 million gap caused, in part, by an estimated revenue shortage of $848,000.

School Business Manager Paul Blowers said the district would be losing conversion aid it received from the state a few years ago when full-day kindergarten was established. A reduction in appropriated reserves also would be a factor.

A $1.2 million increase in expenses also will contribute to the 2014-15 shortfall, with salary and benefit boosts responsible for more than half that total. Also, higher costs for Board of Cooperative Educational Services and special education-related expenses will add an additional $250,000 to the expense line, Blowers said.

First-level strategies to close the gap include reducing BOCES services, transportation costs, and building and grounds expenses, the superintendent said.

Board Vice President Mary Beth Covert said she is concerned the January budget forum would be too early for meaningful discussions with the public. Board President Daniel Brunson agreed, saying a March date would allow for a more detailed budget discussion, but he noted the early community feedback will better shape the board’s decision-making.