School district, employee associations continue contract talks

The district rejected one proposal from two employee associations and is analyzing another

In an all-day collective bargaining meeting on Monday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District rejected one proposal from two employee associations, and is currently analyzing another, a press release from the district said.

The associations also rejected a district proposal offered during Monday’s meeting. President of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, David Brighton, said the negotiations are heading in the right direction. For the last year, contract negotiations between the school district and two employee associations, Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Kenai Peninsula Support Association, which represent non-tenured teachers and support personnel, have snagged on the rising cost of health care. A previous agreement effective through June 2018 remains in use for the employees without contracts.

After months of negotiations, district and employee associations could not come to an agreement, so in February, an arbitrator held a hearing to help guide contract negotiations. The school district has offered proposals for each employee association, based on recommendations from the arbitrator’s report, released April 26.

“The district proposal accepts the recommendations in the arbitrator’s report,” Pegge Erkeneff, communications liaison for the district, said in a May 8 press release.

Since 2017, the district has provided employees with two options for health care benefits, which include a high-deductible plan and a traditional plan. Employees pay 10% of the costs for the high-deductible plan, and 15% of the costs for the traditional plan, according to the report. The proposal made by the associations, which is now being analyzed by the district, includes salary recommendations from the arbitrator, and asks the district to migrate employees from the traditional plan to the district’s high-deductible plan. The traditional plan has more expensive premiums, meaning more money taken out of employee’s paycheck. The high-deductible plan ensures less expensive premiums, but has a higher upfront cost to employees receiving medical care.

“If the district terminates the traditional plan, we are willing to agree to the 85% split rather than the current 90/10 split, if they terminate the cap,” Brighton said. “I believe that will lower premiums for employees and make the cost more affordable for the district.”

Brighton said he’s concerned the traditional plan offered by the district will cost employees over $1,000 a month next year.

“They can’t afford that,” Brighton said. “We’re willing to accept higher deductibles.”

The associations will expect a response from the district on their last proposal at the next collective bargaining meeting at 9 a.m., on Thursday, May 16.