On the verge of leaving a new three-year contract in the hands of an arbitration panel, New Milford's school administrators and the Board of Education finally managed a settlement last week.

The pact will freeze pay increases next year, with 2 percent and 2.75 percent increases in the two following years.

An arbitration hearing had been scheduled this past Monday but the two parties were able to come to terms on salaries, benefits and some contract language without that intervention, school and union officials.

New contract language was added to assure administrators' rights are protected regarding any type of disciplinary action.

Administrators' association president Denis Dolan said he had yet to explain the new contract to all of the members.

Mr. Dolan said he is satisfied that the matter was settled. Negotiations on the contract had started in the summer.

"Everyone is glad the process is finally concluded," he said.

The union represents 16 administrators, including principals, assistant principals, the athletic director and special education supervisors.

Salaries range from $101,134 for the athletic director to $142,730 for the high school principal. All administrators are currently at the top of a five-step pay scale.

At the end of September, the teachers' union also negotiated a pay freeze for next year, a move hailed by school board members and town leaders.

Thomas McSherry, a member of the school board's negotiating team, said he's glad negotiations produced results he believes are in the best interests of the district, while recognizing the needs of the administrators.

"I'm glad they took into account the financial situation in town that everyone is dealing with,'' McSherry said.

The administrators also agreed to accept health insurance premium contributions up to 19 percent by the end of the contract.

The new contract also will increase co-payments to specialty physicians from $25 to $35 a visit next year, and by the final year those in a PPO plan will have to pay $40 for such visits.