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Waynesboro school board reaffirms contract position

Presentation about negotiations given to more than 200 people at meeting

May 15, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • Waynesboro Area School District teacher Christine Bradley comments on the ongoing teachers' contract dispute Tuesday evening during a school board meeting at Waynesboro Area Senior High School.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — The Waynesboro Area School Board on Tuesday reaffirmed its decision to reject a fact-finding report issued in ongoing contract negotiations with the district’s teachers’ union.

However, the board did not take that second vote Tuesday because the state Labor Relations Board did not make the report available to the public in time.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board assigned Alex A. Kaschock to the school district on February 21, 2012, for a second round of fact-finding. He had issued his first report in late 2010.

If approved, Kaschock’s suggestions could have served as the basis for a contract that would replace the one that expired June 30, 2010. The Waynesboro Area Education Association, which represents 278 teachers, accepted it, but the school board did not.

The fact-finder recommended the teachers contribute more for their medical coverage and receive an average $1,200 salary increase each year for two of three years in a new contract.

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The school board offered a presentation about negotiations to more than 200 people at its Tuesday meeting.

“We need to fund (a contract) properly. That’s where the problem lies,” said Billie Finn, school board member.

According to the board’s PowerPoint presentation, the board will agree to a contract that it feels is “fair to all,” including faculty, staff, taxpayers and the community at large. It will only fund a contract with recurring revenues.

The board re-emphasized it will not provide retroactive pay increases, saying contractual terms will be effective the date the contract is signed.

“The sooner a contract is signed, the quicker pay increases go into effect,” the presentation said.

The fact-finder’s “recommendations, his ideas and comments may be used to continue negotiations. This is one of the primary benefits of the fact-finding process,” the presentation said.

“Fact-finding is a process that really creates a path that allows the parties to move forward. It really creates a middle ground that hopefully parties can” work on, Finn said.

Waynesboro Area Education Association President Mike Engle described fact-finding as “mediation trying to get a resolution by whatever means possible.” He pointed out that the Chambersburg Area School District agreed to salary increases in each year of its teachers’ new contract.

“They are facing the exact same fiscal responsibilities as Waynesboro,” Engle said, noting that the Waynesboro teachers already agreed to health insurance contributions.

About eight teachers are retiring, and they can be replaced with less experienced educators who are paid less, creating savings, Engle said.

The board presentation mentioned the down economy, reduced state funding and stagnant local tax revenue. It highlighted rising costs associated with contributions to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System, or PSERS, which is the state pension system that could cost the district an additional $2.3 million annually by 2016-17.

“This requires that salary costs be contained and concessions (be made) in benefit costs largely to fund future increases, as there is little or no new state/local money on the horizon,” the presentation said.

“What we’ve asked the teachers is if they can bear with us and get through these hard times,” said Ed Wilson, school board president.

With the changes to health insurance and salary increases, the school board estimated the fact-finding recommendations would have cost the district $961,900 if approved.

The district’s savings could be depleted by PSERS, a lawsuit and fees related to negotiations, board member Chris Lind said.

The school board said it is “not palatable” to raise taxes or make cuts to fund what is recommended in the fact-finding report.

Its presentation generated public comment on both sides of the issue.

Sean Bockstie said she graduated 25 years ago and felt that she was standing among peers who are teachers. But Bockstie said she is worried about how a new contract could affect finances and relations.

“I hope you will approve something because I’m so glad I didn’t have to go through my high school years with the threats of a strike and all this animosity,” she said.

Teacher Christine Bradley said she questions how the board members campaigned on promises of little or no tax increases. She said the bills in her home go up every year, as they do for the school district.

“How can you fiscally manage a district without a tax increase?” she asked.

The board and teachers are deciding whether to negotiate this weekend.

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