Para-educator union president Nancy Miller said she is glad a new three-year contract, the result of 18 months of negotiations, was approved last week without arbitration.

The previous contract with the New Milford school district had expired June 1, 2010.

Ms. Miller said, however, she is disappointed para-educators could not gain more headway on medical coverage.

The 107-member union and the Board of Education two weeks ago ratified a contract extending through June 30, 2013.

Union workers will see a 2 percent pay increase each year of the contract, with the first year's increase retroactive to last July.

An additional 50 cents an hour will go to para-educators who spend more than 50 percent of their time tending to the personal hygiene of their students.

Ms. Miller said the workers' share of individual medical insurance, which will increase 1 percent a year from the 3 percent they paid in 2009-10, is "reasonably fair.''

The total annual premium for individual medical, prescription and dental coverage is about $9,000.

The employee share for two-person and family medical coverage will decrease from 89 percent this year to 85 percent by the final year of the contract, a contribution far higher than other school employees pay, Ms. Miller said.

"For the amount of money we make, we pay an astronomical amount for family premiums,'' she added.

Ms. Miller noted about 10 para-educators enroll in that insurance plan because of the cost -- about $15,600 annually for family medical, prescription and dental coverage.

Coverage for two people is about $450 less.

"It is a little hard to swallow,'' said Ms. Miller, who pointed out salaries range from about $16,700 to just more than $21,000.

She admitted this had been a "difficult contract negotiation."