The Colchester Education Association and school board have settled on a two-year contract agreement, with a 2.85 and 2.75 percent total salary increase in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively.

“A majority of the board believes we reached an agreement with the CEA that supports high quality educational opportunities while working to control costs,” a statement from the school board reads, adding the deal keeps teachers “near or just above the middle” of the county’s pay range.

The board ratified the deal at its Oct. 17 meeting, along with a one-year contract for support staff with a 2.9 percent salary increase “reflected by a $0.44 hourly increase,” according to district communications director Meghan Baule.

Board members also approved a “side letter” for handbook employees and administrators, which covers healthcare terms but not salary.

For all three groups, the district will cover 80 percent of premiums for the Gold CDHP healthcare plan and offer an HRA with a $400/$800/$800 split for employees with single, two-person and family plans, respectively. Employees will pay the “first and last dollar” of their HRA contribution, Baule said.

The ratification came weeks after the board said it was moving to fact-finding after a four-hour session with the CEA and a neutral mediator failed to produce an agreement.

Negotiations first began last December and were halted when the board declared impasse in April. A factfinder would have issued a non-binding recommendation after weighing cost of living, comparative wages and the financial ability of the municipal employer, among other factors.

Broken down further, the increases for teacher salary come in the form of a 1.19 and 1.22 percent raise to the base salary in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively. That is the increase seen by a brand-new teacher who starts in the district with a bachelor’s degree and no experience, Baule explained.

A teacher in the aforementioned case made $42,635 in 2016-17 and will make $43,142 in 2017-18 and $43,667 in 2018-19, according to salary schedules provided by the district.

The remaining portions of the percentages come in the form of “step” increases, annual increases awarded based on experience: 1.66 percent in 2017-18 and 1.53 percent in 2018-19, according to the board’s statement.

At the top of the salary schedule, teachers with a master’s degree, 30-plus years of teaching and the highest “step” achievable made $86,336 in 2016-17 and will make $87,362 in 2017-18 and $88,426 in 2018-19.

“To maintain our exceptional schools, we must balance controlling costs with paying our teachers competitively,” the board wrote. “Colchester schools consistently deliver learning outcomes above the state average at a cost below the state average per student.”

Full contracts with updated terms and appendices are expected this week and will be uploaded to the district’s website, according to Baule.