Arbitrator urges school district, associations to reach agreement

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Thursday, August 25, 2016 9:47pm
  • News

In his released report, a collective bargaining Advisory Arbitrator urges the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and Kenai Education and Kenai Peninsula Education Support associations to wrap up negotiations as soon as possible.

“It is time for the Associations and District to close this contract without further delay,” wrote jointly selected, Oregon-based arbitrator Gary Axon. “By the time a contract is finally entered into over one year will have elapsed of the three-year agreement (contracts were set to begin July 1, 2015) recommended by the Interest Arbitrator to the parties. Prolonged negotiations will not be in the best interest of either the Associations, District, or patrons of the District.”

Axon’s findings from the June 1-2 meetings are included a 29-page document, published on the school district’s website, where he suggests concessions to all three parties in the unresolved topics of health care, salaries and benefits and eight other minor areas.

“…The Arbitrator is recommending nothing radical or drastic for inclusion in the successor agreements,” he wrote in the report.

On the topic of health care Axon wrote he believes neither the school district’s nor the associations’ positions should be adopted in their entirety. The school district’s proposal “goes too far, too fast, to shift the additional cost of health care onto the employees,” and the associations’ does “zero to alleviate the rising costs of the health care program to the District,” he wrote.

Axon suggests the teams meet in the middle and adopt a three-year plan, which includes the addition of a high-deductible plan along with maintaining the current Traditional plan.

The school district preferred a four-year plan, which “is not acceptable in a period of economic flux,” and the associations’ a two-year plan that “makes little sense when the parties are into the second year of the contract,” he wrote. The new agreement should take effect Jan. 1, 2017, as no savings would be realized this year, he wrote.

A major sticking point during negotiations was the per-employee, per-month cap.

Axon suggests the teams agree the school district contribute 85 percent on the traditional health care plan and 90 percent on the high-deductible plan, once both the out of pocket and deductible payments are satisfied. He also suggests the school district and employees equally split the costs if the employee’s medical bills exceed $1,731.45 per month on the traditional plan, and $1,645.61 on the high-deductible plan in 2018.

Axon wrote that his recommendations on salaries and benefits are strongly influenced by Gov. Bill Walker’s nearly $1 million last minute vetoes to the Base Student Allocation and pupil transportation funding. Again, he recommends entering a three-year agreement.

The associations proposed percentage salary increases for their members, while the school district proposed stipends off the salary schedule.

The associations reported their concerns with the lack of percentage increases, which could lower the school district’s ability to retain and attract employees.

Axon sided with the school district for the current fiscal year, but proposed percentage increases built into the salary scheduled for the next two fiscal years. He wrote all tentative agreements should be implemented retroactively for eligible employees.

“The task for the parties and this arbitrator is to maintain a salary schedule that does not fall substantially behind the comparators, but keep the District’s salary schedule in a competitive position,” he wrote.

The school district and associations are not legally bound to any of Axon’s recommendations.

Before anything is final, all three bargaining teams must mutually reach a tentative agreement, and then that agreement must be ratified by the Board of Education, said Pegge Erkeneff, school district liaison.

School district administration and Board of Education members are currently reviewing the arbitrator’s decisions, Erkeneff said. The board will discuss the findings during an executive session scheduled during a special meeting scheduled for 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 1 at the Kenai Peninsula Borough administrative building, she said.

KPEA President David Brighton said the two associations’ negotiating teams met Thursday afternoon, and determined they are ready to meet with the school district’s team again.

“We have two possible dates in the next couple weeks that we are requesting the district’s team to meet with us,” he said.


Reach Kelly Sullivan at

More in News

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Legislature modernizes 40-year-old definition of consent in sexual assault cases

‘Alaska took a gargantuan step forward in updating our laws,’ says deputy attorney general

Project stakeholders cut a ribbon at the Nikiski Shelter of Hope on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Stakeholders celebrate opening of Nikiski shelter

The shelter officially opened last December

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters Thursday about the state’s budget at the Alaska State Capitol. Dunleavy said lawmakers had sent a complete budget, and that there was no need for a special session.
Dunleavy: No need for special session

Governor calls budget “complete”

A magnet promoting the Alaska Reads Act released sits atop a stack of Alaskan-authored and Alaska-centric books. Lawmakers passed the Alaska Reads Act on the last day of the legislative session, but several members of the House of Representatives were upset with the bill, and the way it was passed. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
In last-minute move, Legislature passes early reading overhaul

Rural lawmakers push back on Alaska Reads Act

Graduates wait to receive diplomas during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Connections honors more than 100 graduates

The home-school program held a ceremony Thursday in Soldotna

Alaska Senate President Peter Micciche, left, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, right, meet with reporters in Micciche’s office in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska, after the Legislature ended its regular session. Micciche, a Republican, and Begich, a Democrat, discussed their working relationship, as well as well as parts of the session they were either pleased with or disappointed with. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
After House balks at bigger figure, budget OK’d with $3,200 payout per Alaskan

Budget finishes as second-largest in state history by one measure, but Dunleavy could make cuts

Loren Reese, principal at Kenai Alternative High School, gives Oliver Larrow the Mr. Fix It award Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Kenai Alternative High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Alternative graduates 22, says goodbye to principal

The ceremony included special awards customized for students

Graduates throw their caps into the air at the end of Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We never fell down’

Soldotna High School honors more than 100 graduates

Brandi Harbaugh gives a presentation during a joint work session on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Mill rate decrease, max school funding included in proposed borough budget

The final document is subject to approval by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly

Most Read