The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and its employee unions were back at the bargaining table Tuesday. The two sides have been through several rounds of negotiations since the last contract expired a year and a half ago.
The latest offer from the district includes salary schedule increases over the next three years and replenishes the healthcare employee reserve account to $750 thousand dollars.
But it’s the monthly premiums attached to those healthcare plans that continue to be the sticking point. A new, high-deductible plan was introduced last year which helped lower premium costs, but shifted them to the other end of the equation. Essentially, they want to district to pick up more of the monthly, defined cost, in line with other districts in the state like Fairbanks. Kenai Peninsula Education Association president Dave Brighton
“Without having analyzed the proposal in detail, I hate to say if it’s a big step forward or a small step forward, but it is a step," said Kenai Peninsula Education Association president Dave Brighton. "It’s nice to get an offer on the table. Last time they talked about ideas and didn’t have any numbers for us, so this is good. The team will spend the next couple hours costing it out and deciding if that’s a plan that we can live with or if that’s something we need to counter offer and that’s what we’ll be doing for the next few hours.”
Brighton made those comments after the two sides had been in talks for two hours Tuesday afternoon. They reconvened that night around 9 p.m. The associations came back with a counter offer that the district will now have to consider.
Brighton said Wednesday morning that all this represents positive movement in the negotiations, but it doesn’t take a potential strike off the table, less than a week from the start of the fall semester.
“Teachers don’t want to be on strike. The first days of school, they want to establish good classroom behaviors, get to know the kids and get the school year started off well. We want to be actively engaged in helping students learn, but right now, we have this contract. We’ve been an entire year without one and it just needs to get done.”
The bargaining teams could meet again on Saturday for another round of negotiations. The fall term begins August 20th.