The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Kenai Peninsula Education Association opened negotiations last month with both sides not seeing eye-to-eye on some issues.
Negotiations are also open between the district and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Staff Association.
One of the main points of contention between the district and KPEA is the district’s proposal of changing the language in regards to the agency fee from the current collective bargaining agreement, KPEA president LaDawn Druce said.
The agency fee is what non-KPEA members pay in order to be represented by the union. In the district’s CBA proposal to KPEA, under section 550, the district is proposing to take out the sentence that says “however, all employees who choose not to join KPEA shall be required as condition of employment to pay a representation fee to KPEA.”
“If that were to be in place, it obviously substantially limits what your local can provide,” Druce said.
Druce said the dues for KPEA members is $1152 for full time teachers, which include $178 for the National Education Association, $647 for the state level, $312 for the local level and $15 for a political action fee.
“When you’re a member of the local, you’re a member of the national and the state as well,” Druce said.
Of the 677 certified employees in the district, Druce said about 622, or 92 percent of them are KPEA members. For those certified employees that choose not to be a member of KPEA, they are required to pay the agency fee of $863. If that fee is done away with by the district, Druce said the effects could be crippling to the organization.
“If (the district) was able to strike the agency fee, then basically an employee in the district could say, ‘No, I don’t want to be a member of the organization and I would pay nothing,’” Druce explained. “So then you can see if people have an opportunity to opt out, they more-than-likely would, knowing they would have to be represented anyway.”
Druce said she was surprised that the district is bringing the change to the table — this is the first time in the organization’s 20 years that a proposal like this has existed. “We’ve had (the) agency fee since 1992,” Druce said. “So 20 years of having our local operate this way without the district, at least at the bargaining table saying, ‘No, we don’t think you should do that anymore,’”
The difference between being a member and a non-member in the current CBA comes out to be about $289.
There has not been an agreement made on the agency fee issue.
“Any proposed changes or additions are part of the negotiated discussion,” KPBSD communications specialist Pegge Erkeneff said.
Although the school district does not know how much money it will receive from the state and borough levels, the district’s preliminary budget for FY13 reflect the proposed changes to the CBA. If the district received additional state or borough funding, that money would be used to offset the projected $2,481,142 deficit, Erkeneff said.
“The opening negotiation offer the school district provided was based on what can be done with fiscal responsibility and to sustain existing programs in the classroom for students,” said Erkeneff. “Several assumptions were built into the FY13 budget, including the anticipation of increased costs to employee health care, and a one-step salary increase for employees.”
For health care in the district’s proposal for negotiation to KPEA, the district proposes it will pay $1312 per employee per month for each year of the agreement, while the employee would pay $288 per month. If employees elect to have a dependent and/or spouse, dependent coverage would cost $10 per month instead of $5 in the current agreement, spouse coverage would cost $20 per month, instead of $10 in the current agreement and family coverage would be $50 per month, instead of $30 in the current agreement.
Druce said KPEA wanted to work in percents instead of dollar amounts.
“Our proposal we did away with straight numbers and we said the district should make contributions that would equal 90 percent of the costs and the employee pay 10 percent,” Druce said.
There has not been an agreement on the health care section of the proposed CBA.
Another contentious issue in the negotiations this year is the salary schedule, Druce said. According to Druce’s KPEA outline of proposed changes by the district, the district is proposing a step in the pay cell and $250 a year for three years with nothing for longevity personnel. In the current CBA, Druce said, there was $3,000 added to every pay cell for the 2009-2010 school year followed by a 2 percent increase for the 2010-2011 year followed by another 2 percent increase for 2011-2012.
The association, according the document, wants to see a step in the pay cell plus 5 percent a year with a cost of living adjustment. All proposals as reported are starting points for both sides of the negotiations. If there have been counter-proposals, the details are typically not released until a tentative CBA agreement is reached, Druce said.
“We start high and they start low and we hopefully end up somewhere in the middle,” Druce said. “Everyone understands that and that’s what makes (the process) slow — the back-and-forth, the give-and-take.”
Erkeneff said the process is a bit more complicated.
“It’s not as simple as saying one side starts high and one side starts low and you find the middle ground — that’s too simple of a way to look at it,” Erkeneff said. “We’ve looked at this very seriously from the very beginning, looked at budgets, looked at remaining student-centered and being fiscally responsible and sustainable. So it’s not a game. These are employees and we care about our employees.”
The next negotiation session is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m.
For more information on the negotiation process, visit http://www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/departments.aspx?id=23343 or http://kpea-kpeasa.org.
Tonight, KPBSD assistant superintendent Dave Jones will host a public budget forum on the FY13 budget at Kenai Central High School from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.