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Teacher contract talks move public in Waynesboro

WASB votes to reject fact-finding report on new collective bargaining proposal

December 11, 2010|By C.J. LOVELACE, Staff Correspondent

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — The Waynesboro Area School Board unanimously voted to reject the fact-finding report on a new collective bargaining proposal with its teachers union Thursday night, Richard B. Galtman, lead negotiator for WASD, said in a news release on behalf of the board Friday.

The report will now be made public by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board and both parties are due for a final vote next Thursday for approval or rejection.

The school board has been in talks with its teachers association, Waynesboro Area Education Association, since February, and the two parties met 11 times over that span. Tentative agreements have been reached on some issues, but several others remain unsettled, the board said.

The teachers, who have been without a contract now for 164 days, want increases in salary and health care benefits, but the school board says their requests do not work with the current economic realities facing the district and the residents of the community.

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“The WASD board sincerely believes that the recommendations are not supported or justified by WASD’s current financial situation or the current economic environment in which WASD exists, and cannot realistically be funded or sustained given the fiscal constraints facing WASD now and in the future,” the board said.

WAEA President Jessica Bryan said the average increase for teachers in the proposal would have been 3 percent the first year, but half of the members would get less than 2 percent. “Our whole goal was to be competitive with other districts,” Bryan said Friday. “By the third year of our contract, we would still be $10,000 lower than Greencastle last year.”

Figures are based on the average salary of an experienced teacher (about 20 years) with a master???s degree, Bryan said. The board mentioned healthcare benefits as another reason for its rejection, but Bryan said the proposal included dramatic increases for premium costs, some jumping as much as 50 percent in the first year.

“Sadly, this is stuff the district wanted,” Bryan said. “We're surprised they did not vote for this. They pretty much got everything they wanted for the healthcare.”

The board argues that the state-mandated Act 1 index limits its ability to raise taxes in support of the proposed increase in salary. The index has been declining in recent years and will fall to 1.8 percent for 2011, according to officials.

“The increase in revenue from a 1.8 percent increase in the tax rate would not come close to funding the monetary recommendations made by the fact finder,” the board said.

While rising medical insurance, utilities and other expenses have raised concerns for the board, the district's contributions to the teacher pension system is projected to increase from 5.64 percent this year to 12.22 percent by 2012-13, more than twice what the district pays today, the board noted.

Bryan mentioned, however, that the district's auditor was in attendance at its most recent board meeting this past Tuesday and complimented the board on how “healthy their fund balance is,” which is currently 9 percent over budget, she said.

“The district is financially capable of paying competitive salaries to attract or retain quality teachers for our children,” Bryan said. “While the district cites increasing pension costs, the state reimburses them half of the amount, reducing the effect to the district's budget.”

The district also saved $500,000 by refinancing construction bonds this year and plans to do the same next year, Bryan said, providing $700,000 in uncommitted income each year.

“I get a little frustrated,” Bryan said. “Yes, it's a hard economic time, but by good decisions they have made, they are very capable of giving us that average salary of 3 percent.“

“There was nothing out of line in this fact-finders report,” she said.

The board cited county unemployment rates, which have hovered around 8 percent all year, a lack of Social Security benefit increases and salary freezes, downsizing and spending reductions in the private sector have put up red flags also.

“We believe these facts are well understood by area residents,” the board said. The board welcomes a return to negotiations and “will strive for an agreement with is fair, affordable and promotes the educational system in our community,” it said.

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