Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 1:56 PM on Wednesday, May 2, 2012

School district, unions get help from mediators

By Logan Tuttle
Morris News Service - Alaska


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

Homer teachers Sue Brass, Elaine Chalup-Blanchard and Suzanne Haines join other educators in finding public support on Saturday in preparation for teacher contract negotiations with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District that began Monday.

Contract negotiations between the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the two unions that represent its employees began mediation Tuesday with the two biggest issues, salary schedule and health care, still on the table.

Friday was the last negotiation session open to the public. During the session, the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Educational Support Association were able to sign off on some parts of their respective contracts with the district, but the biggest issues still remain.

The district and KPESA signed off on six articles of their contract Friday, which leaves 10 articles still on the table. The six articles pertain to: membership rights, term of employment, classification, discretional funds, association leave and the career development program. Each article agreed upon Friday keeps the language from the current contract.

KPEA and the district signed off on one section of their contract, section 140 discretional materials. The new contract language states teachers will be reimbursed $225 for materials, while under the current contract they are reimbursed $200.

The district offered a couple of proposals Friday, one in regards to section 105 salary schedule and one that involves section 110 salary conditions. The district's proposal for salary schedule includes a step in the salary schedule plus 1 percent for three years with two additional professional development days added to the calendar. These are workdays without students in the building.

The extra workdays would cost the district about $250,000 per day for the teachers' hours, or $500,000 for both days, KPBSD Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said during the session. The two new proposed workdays would give teachers 190 workdays in the year as opposed to the current 188 days.

Under the current contract, a first year teacher for the 2011-2012 school year in the district is scheduled to make $43,945, according to the district's pay scale. The district's proposal would have a new teacher for the 2012-2013 school year receive $46,185 including the 1 percent increase and two extra days, according to the proposal's salary schedule.

The district received extra funding from the state due to a change in the calculation of Kenai Peninsula Borough required contribution, which gave the district an additional $2,681,708 and one-time funding from the governor's capital budget of $1,752,986 (both are still pending the governor's signature). The borough's change in contribution is part of the foundation changes, meaning that money is given every year. That number should be similar for the next three years, Jones said.

The borough also proposed $43.5 million for the district pending approval from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. With the money from the state and the borough, the district is left with $953,251 after having to overcome a $2,481,443 deficit.

KPEA's proposal for the salary schedule includes a step in the salary schedule in addition to 3 percent added to each cell plus a 2.8 percent increase for cost of living, which is based on the Consumer Price Index of Anchorage calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor, Borough of Statistics. Calculating the salary is not as easy as compounding the two percentages to make it 5.8 percent, KPEA President LaDawn Druce said. Each cell is calculated by multiplying the salary by the 3 percent and then that number by the 2.8 percent, Druce said. In KPEA's proposal that was introduced March 2, a new teacher for the 2012-2013 school year would receive $46,530.72, according to the proposal's salary schedule.

Health care is the other big topic of the contract negotiations. The unions have not wavered in their proposal of a 90 percent/10 percent split of the district's estimated cost of $1,600 per employee per month, with the employee paying the 10 percent.

The district introduced a health care proposal on March 26 that would require the employee to pay $270 a month for health care, while the district would pay $1,330, according to the proposal. Under the current contract, the employee is required to pay $340 a month and the district pays $1,115

According to the district, employees would save $70 a month and $840 a year under their proposal. On Friday, the district changed the language in their proposal to say certified staff is eligible for health care after 30 calendar days and classified staff is eligible after 90 calendar days.

The unions' health care proposal does not use the $1,600 that the district does, but their proposal is based on the total cost per employee per month, which is $1,455. The unions' proposal requires employees to pay $145 and the district pay $1,310.

The coverage, Druce said, is for all 12 months, but she said health care is not taken out of teachers' paychecks during June, July and August, so that number ends up being higher. Instead of $145, it would work out to be about $193 that comes out of the actual paycheck.

The two sides met Tuesday with a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service based in Seattle.

Logan Tuttle is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He can be reached at logan.tuttle@peninsulaclarion.com.