Kenai Peninsula Borough School District administration, members from the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association meet at a collective bargaining session to continue contract negotiations for employees who have been without contracts for a year, on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District administration, members from the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association meet at a collective bargaining session to continue contract negotiations for employees who have been without contracts for a year, on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Employee associations reject school district contract proposals

The rising cost of health care has been a key sticking point in the negotiations.

School district employees rejected contract proposals from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Wednesday evening, following an all-day contract negotiation.

“We rejected proposals because they don’t meet our needs for the rising cost of health care,” David Brighton, president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, said.

Brighton said he felt that progress toward an agreement was made.

Pegge Erkeneff, communications liaison for the district, said there will be another bargaining session at 10 a.m. on Monday.

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.

At the Wednesday meeting, the school district offered a proposal 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,” Erkeneff said in a Wednesday press release.

The rising cost of health care has been a key sticking point in the negotiations.

The arbitrator’s report offered few suggestions for resolving the stalemate on health care costs but acknowledged the funding challenges facing the district as well as the evidence brought forth by the associations regarding health care employee cost share.

The report found that “evidence is irrefutable that it is costing KPBSD more to provide health care coverage, and that employees experience higher costs than virtually all of the other comparable districts,” which include districts in Anchorage, Mat-Su and Fairbanks.

Employee association negotiators said during Wednesday’s meeting that they wanted to reduce employees’ share of health care costs.

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.

One proposal put forward by employee association negotiators during collective bargaining was to incorporate wellness incentives into a health care plan.

The arbitrator’s report mentions that there are studies showing plans that incentivize efforts to reduce obesity rates, to educate people on the causes of high blood pressure and benefits of good nutrition and encourage more active lifestyles could reduce health care costs.

District negotiators said they would consider the concept of such a plan, but wanted more time to look into the potential cost savings.

Cost savings were also high on the district’s priority list at the Wednesday meeting.

The district has been spending more of their fund balance in recent years, and during the negotiations, district administration expressed concerns over continued budget uncertainties, at the state and borough level.

According to the arbitrator report’s conclusions, however, the district’s “uncertainty about state funding, while understandable is not a sufficient reason to withhold consideration of the increases and proposed changes sought by the associations.”

“Every district in the state has the same uncertainty, yet others have been able to determine that they can settle their contracts, and in certain instances to agree to wage increases,” the report said.

The report’s conclusions also ask that the borough assembly and Mayor Charlie Pierce are made aware of the district’s fund balance allocations made over the last five years.

Despite budget concerns, the district accepted the association’s original proposal for salary increases, which were also recommended by the arbitrator in their report.

For both employee associations, the arbitrator’s report recommends settling FY19, FY20 and FY21 bargaining with salary schedule increases in the amounts of .5% in FY19, 1% in FY20 and 2% in FY21. The report also recommends the shift differential for those working swing shifts be increased to 40 cents per hour, and to 60 cents for employees working the graveyard shift.

Bargaining will continue at 10 a.m. Monday. Location is yet to be determined.

More in News

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Alexis Alamillo, of Anchorage, carries a sockeye salmon caught in a dipnet from the mouth of the Kenai River on Wednesday.
Kenai River dipnetting now open 24 hours a day

The liberalization of fishing regulation was effective starting Thursday evening

A drone rises into the air while kicking up dust, departing on a test flight for the use of beyond visual line of sight drone aircraft, at Furie Operating Alaska’s central processing facility in Nikiski, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Drone test flight operates beyond visual line of sight between Nikiski and a Cook Inlet platform

The drone could perform deliveries to and from Cook Inlet platforms

A map of Lower Skilak Campground shows the areas that will be closed in July and August 2024. (Graphic provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Areas of Lower Skilak Campground to close for repair starting Monday

The East Loop will be closed — projected to be reopened at noon on Aug. 4

Kenai Courthouse is photographed on Feb. 26, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Sterling resident sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexual abuse of minors

Additionally, Crane will face 15 years of supervised probation as well as sex offender registration and treatment

Shrubs grow outside of the Kenai Courthouse on Monday, July 3, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former Soldotna police officer acquitted of 2023 assault allegations

He was found not guilty following a five-day trial in late June

A parade of cars and trucks flying flags in support of former President Donald Trump proceed down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Residents caravan across central peninsula in support of Trump

The parade came a day after an attempted assassination of the former president

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

The Kenai Safeway is seen on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai and Soldotna Safeways may be sold under proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger

The local stores will be sold to CS Wholesale Grocers only if the merger overcomes suit from the FTC

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Draft plan published for disbursement of $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022 ESSN disasters

Public comment will be accepted for the draft spend plan until July 24

Most Read