At a steadily increasing rate, school boards are successfully containing health benefit costs, new NJSBA data shows.

Teacher contract settlement data updated on April 12 show that 48% of districts in the state reached contract agreements for this academic year that included cost containment of health benefits.

In fact, the number of districts reporting cost containments on health insurance has more than doubled over the last six years, from 22% in 2012-2013, to 48% in the current academic year.

In the most frequently reported change, districts and employees are saving money by switching from the NJ Direct 10 plan to NJ Direct 15, which has a lower premium and slightly higher co-pay. An estimate of the amount of money saved, statewide, is not available. Many settlements saved money for the districts and for the teachers who accepted the health insurance change.

At the same time, teacher salaries in recent contract settlements show a small increase.

NJSBA preliminary data released this month shows that average salaries will increase by about 2.98% for the 2019-2020 academic year, up slightly from the 2018-2019 year’s 2.92% increase, but still far short of the raises in excess of 4.5% that were routinely awarded a decade ago.

The latest results are from an NJSBA survey of the 211 districts with teacher contracts that expired on June 30, 2018. With 99% of the districts responding, at least 157 districts have reached a successor agreement, some of which are pending ratification.

Fewer than 10 districts have not yet reached an agreement for contracts that expired on June 30, 2017 or earlier.