The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District building is closed on March 26, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District building is closed on March 26, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly approves borough employee contract

The agreement will last from July 1 until June 20, 2023.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted Tuesday to approve the borough employee contract.

The borough administration and the employee’s union work together to create an agreement every three years.

The agreement between the employee association and the administration will last from July 1 until June 20, 2023.

The new agreement removes one employee health care option and moves employees onto a high-deductible health plan, includes a 5.5% increase in base pay for employees over three years, changes hiring and layoff procedures and includes new anti-bullying language.

All but assembly member Jesse Bjorkman voted to ratify the agreement. Bjorkman said he doesn’t think a three-year contract is “a prudent move” at this time.

“I don’t see a three-year contract as being something I would go for and it’s not something I’m going to vote for,” Bjorkman said.

The agreement was made in March, before the COVID-19 pandemic and crashing oil prices caused budget uncertainties for the borough. Despite the new budget landscape, Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce said “an agreement is an agreement,” and said the original agreement should carry forward.

“No one knew, at the time we started talking to the time we settled, that we would be sitting with a March date of COVID-19,” Pierce said. “Our fund balance has been subject to go away in the last six weeks. We had reached an agreement before that. Hindsight is always 20/20.”

If the assembly voted against ratifying the agreement, the negotiations would start over. Because of this, assembly member Willy Dunne said he would approve the contract agreement.

“To not approve a contract that was ratified by the employees and agreed to by both parties in a fair and equitable manner would just not be the right thing to do at this time,” Dunne said.

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