Negotiations between the Kenai Peninsula Education and Kenai Peninsula Education Support associations and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are again headed toward arbitration, scheduled for June 1-2.
The associations accepted the school district’s original health care offer on April 1, a two-tier plan from Feb. 9, 2015, which introduced a high-deductible plan in addition to the currently offered traditional plan, but rejected a package proposal made by the school district on April 8, which included per employee, per month caps for FY17, FY18 and FY19.
By introducing a high-deductible plan, the school district and participating employees would be paying fewer contributions each month, said Pegge Erekeneff, school district spokesperson. Some employees who may have good health, make minimal use of their plans and would prefer to be paying less from their paychecks. There would be a window each year where employees are allowed to switch plans, she said.
The package proposal would also have extended the school district’s previously sought after one-year contract, which was set to begin July 1, 2015, to a three-year contract. The extension was in addition to the current year that has been a status quo period, meaning the most recently ratified contracts are still in effect, she said.
Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said the high-deductible plan would encourage more “responsible usage.”
Erkeneff and Jones explained the high-deductible plan was introduced at the start of this round of bargaining to address the rising costs of providing health care, and a revenue stream that is not keeping up.
The school district’s health care system is self-funded, and paid for through the Health Care Reserve Account. The account is funded by the employees’ and school district’s monthly contributions, which come out of the school district’s General Fund Balance.
In March the associations proposed the school district move away from self-funding.
The associations and school district negotiating teams met with Public Education Health Trust Chief Financial Officer Rhonda Kitter on March 30 to discuss the associations’ proposal that the school district sign on with the PEHT, a nonprofit and arm of Alaska’s National Education Association, next year.
By the end of the meeting both teams were skeptical about joining the PEHT, and two days later the associations accepted the school district’s original health care offer.
Advisory arbitration is scheduled with jointly selected Oregon-based arbitrator Gary Axon. His counsel will not be legally binding.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org