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No deals reached in Waynesboro teacher contract discussion

October 31, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — A 2 1/2 hour negotiating session Monday between the Waynesboro Area School Board and its teachers union yielded a pair of new proposals but no agreement.

The two sides have been meeting at the bargaining table since early 2010 in anticipation of the teachers’ last contract expiring that summer. They’ve been without a contract since then.

After two previous negotiating sessions were canceled, leadership for the school board and the Waynesboro Area Education Association bargaining unit sat down Monday evening.

“The union made a proposal; the district made a counter proposal. ... The union expressed they were disappointed with our proposal. We were disappointed their proposal didn’t go far enough,” said Richard Galtman, an attorney acting as lead negotiator for the school board.

“We are disappointed the board did not give our proposal more consideration,” WAEA negotiations chairman Mike Engle said in a statement.

“Previous board offers merely rearranged the dollars, but did not otherwise move towards compromise. In contrast WAEA has been reducing our proposals with each new offer in an attempt to reach an agreement,” he said.

The school board will only make salary increases based on savings it realizes through teachers’ increased contributions to health insurance, Galtman said.

While the Waynesboro Area Education Association said it’d be willing to eliminate one of its existing insurance plans, the savings from that, especially if the move was made mid-year, would not be enough to provide any real salary increases, he said.

“Our health care offer includes everyone paying for health insurance. Our current deductibles are already double or triple our neighboring Franklin County districts. With our proposed premium share, coupled with our deductibles, our health care costs will be comparable to or greater than neighboring districts,” Engle said.

In a phone interview, Galtman said he did not readily have figures available for how much the district pays out in health insurance premiums, but said the amount is a few million dollars a year.

Both sides are working in earnest and made “movement in what I would call a positive direction considering the circumstances,” Galtman said.

Already hit by reduced state funding and increased pension contributions, the school board also faces a lower tax collection rate and an increased number of property owners seeking reassessment to lower their tax bills, Galtman said.

“We can’t control those contingencies,” he said.

“The uncertainty of a teacher’s contract dragging out for years and class size in the thirties will make families and businesses hesitant about moving into our community,” Engle said, noting that increased homeownership would increase the tax base.

Two more dates for bargaining were scheduled, with the first one being Nov. 16.

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