Teachers Vote On New Contract

     The Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board will meet today to discuss and possibly approve new contracts for the district’s teachers and staff. Members of the teachers’ and employees’ unions had until Sunday to give the agreement an up or down vote. 

     It took 14 months of negotiations, one arbitrator and one month of consideration from the employees and teachers in the school district to get to this point. If union members agree to the terms of the contract, the school board could approve the agreement. 

     The three-year contracts, which technically start in 2012, include changes in health care benefits and annual raises. In the first year the district picks up 80 percent of health care costs. By the second year, the district’s share stretches to 83 percent with a final share in the last year of the three-year agreement standing at 85 percent. The agreement also would allow for a 2 percent annual bump in salary.

     Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater has said the district was anticipating the extra costs for next year’s spending plan, but there would need to be a slight adjustment. During last week’s regular school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones mentioned officials increased the budget by 542,489 dollars in light of the agreement. The district’s total general fund expenditures for next year now stands at roughly 149.3 million dollars. That spending plan was approved last week by the school board. 

     The administration also planned to look back at last year’s budget to figure out how the increased costs affected the district’s finances. Jones says officials do not have those numbers yet, but when they get the final figures they will determine if a revision would be necessary.

     Kenai Peninsula Education Association President LaDawn Druce said at the time of the tentative agreement that the union officials would have nine meetings with members to ensure everyone was informed of what was included in the new contract. Voting for the agreement opened April 1st and because the majority of the voting happens online, Druce says the results will be immediate. The school board will use its special meeting Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. to decide how to move forward.