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Salaries, insurance contribution biggest sticking point for Tuscarora teachers, district

August 15, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- The Tuscarora Education Association's union spokeswoman expressed confidence this week that the teachers union and school district can reach a resolution at their final contract negotiating session, which is scheduled for next Wednesday.

Marcia Bender, working with the bargaining unit through the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said both sides left the table Aug. 4 with proposals to consider.

"We were able to review the fact finder's report, and both sides indicated which parts of the fact finding we were OK with," Bender said. "Hopefully on Aug. 20, we can take those proposals and resolve the issues."

The two biggest sticking points remain salaries and contributions to medical insurance, she said.

The real issue dividing the Tuscarora School District's teachers union and administration is economics, according to the fact finder who issued a seven-page report earlier this summer.

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Fact finder William F. Caldwell stated that while the district should increase wages and decrease co-payments for medical insurance, it financially is unable to do so. He recommended salary increases of between 4.25 percent and 4.4 percent each year for the next four years of the contract.

The school board agreed to the recommendations in Caldwell's report, but the Tuscarora Education Association rejected it.

Carl Beard, an attorney serving as spokesman for the board, was unavailable for comment.

Bender previously said the teachers seriously have considered the possibility of a strike if they don't soon reach a resolution. They held a rally immediately before the Aug. 4 negotiating session.

"It was a good show of solidarity and support for the bargaining unit," Bender said, noting that the bargaining unit has 180 members.

The fact finder recommended that the starting salary for a new teacher with a bachelor's degree be $39,313 for the 2008-09 school year. The recommended rate changes to $43,452 by 2011-12.

Tuscarora has the second-highest residential population in the county as well as the highest millage rates for taxpayers, according to the fact-finding report.

"The millage rate for 2007-08 was 99.42 mills, which is approximately 30 percent higher than the average of the other school districts," Caldwell wrote. "Further, the dollars raised per mill in the district is low in comparison to the county."

Caldwell cited retirement contributions and a pending high school renovation project as significant financial burdens for the school district.

"The only positive element in the district's financial picture is an increased market value based on housing developments in the southern part of the district," Caldwell wrote. "However, these housing developments have recently almost slowed to a stop due to the national housing problem."

The fact finder's report states that the old contract allows for reasonable increases, but teachers lost ground compared to county averages.




Teacher contracts in other Franklin, Fulton county school districts



The following information shows the valid dates of current teacher contracts in three Franklin County, Pa., school districts one in Fulton County, Pa. Also included is the starting salary for a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree in 2008-09. The school districts provided the information.

Central Fulton

July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2010

$37,825

Chambersburg Area

Contract settled November 2006, made retroactive to July 1, 2006. Valid for 2007-07 through 2009-10 school years.

$42,778

Greencastle-Antrim

Sept. 1, 2007, to Aug. 31, 2012

$44,187

Waynesboro Area

July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2009

$41,070

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