The Los Nietos School District and its classified employees have agreed to a new contract, ending nearly nine months of negotiations. The district's chapter of the California School Employees Assn. last week approved the new pact, which includes a 5.5% salary increase, more vacation pay and longevity pay for longtime employees.

Lowell Shira, assistant superintendent of business, estimates the new contract, including the salary increase, which is retroactive to September, will cost the district about $50,000 a year.

The classified employees--instructional aides, custodians, secretaries and cafeteria workers--have been working without a contract since July. Negotiations on the new pact began in May, but Shira said differences over vacation pay stalled talks for months.

"Early on in the talks, we resolved all but one of the six or seven key issues. The stumbling block was vacation pay for long-term employees," Shira said. The impasse finally was settled when the district agreed to give "slightly" more vacation pay to 17-year employees, Shira said.

"We are very relieved that it is over," he said.

The new contract also calls for partial health insurance payments for employee dependents (about $40 a month) and a $25 monthly increase in longevity pay for employees who have worked in the district 15, 25 or 30 years.

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