By Jenny Neyman
Negotiating teams for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Education Support Association are headed back to the bargaining table Wednesday with just one remaining area left to hammer out in contract talks that have been ongoing since last January.
Negotiations went before nonbinding arbitration in October, with the arbitrator’s advisory report released in December. Teams reconvened Jan. 22, where the district presented what it termed its “last best offer.”
The proposal adopts many of the arbitrator’s recommendations, including an annual salary increase of 2 percent each of the three years of the contract. In health care, the district is offering to shoulder a greater portion of the cost of the district’s self-funded insurance, lowering participating employees’ monthly premium to $291 per month, down from the $340 per month they were paying in fiscal year 2012. The district also agrees to eliminate the additional amount employees were contributing for dependent, spouse and family coverage.
The district also agreed to do away with the 50-50 split on cost overruns of the health care plan. In the previous contract, if health care expenditures exceeded the predetermined monthly contributions from the district and employees, those cost overruns were split 50 percent by employees and 50 percent by the district. Now if there are cost overruns, they will be paid at a rate of 80 percent by the district in the first year of the contract (fiscal year 2013), 83 percent in year two (FY2014) and 85 percent in year three (FY2015), with employees paying the resultant 20 percent in year one, 17 percent in year two and 15 percent in year three.
All this was welcome news to the associations in the closed-to-the-public bargaining session Jan. 22. There was just one deviation in the district’s offer from the arbitrator’s recommendation. The district is proposing changes to the membership and authority of the Health Care Committee, to prevent changes in health care coverage without agreement by district representatives and association members.
The district is proposing to eliminate one KPEA seat and add three seats to be appointed by the superintendent. Currently the committee consists of four KPEA members, three KPESA members and one Kenai Peninsula Administrator Association member. The district also proposes requiring a supermajority of 75 percent in any vote on changes to district benefits.
Also in the proposal is the stipulation that the district would not be required to adopt changes if they resulted in violations of established laws or regulations, altered the administration or management of health care benefits, resulted in a cost increase to the plan of more than 5 percent or would be detrimental to the financial interests of the district, as determined by the superintendent.