Educators rally in front of Kenai Central High School after school ahead of a strike called on by two employee associations, on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Educators rally in front of Kenai Central High School after school ahead of a strike called on by two employee associations, on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

School board to consider contract agreement

The associations and the district had been negotiating for a contract for nearly 600 days.

The school board will vote Monday on tentative contract agreement made by the district and associations in the early hours of Sept. 17.

The executive boards of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association voted to ratify the contract for teachers and support staff in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

The associations and the district had been negotiating for a contract for nearly 600 days, and bargaining was snagged on the rising cost of health care.

The agreement for a three-year contract, reached at 1:37 a.m., will be effective between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2021.

The agreement is based on an offer the associations presented to the district back on May 13. The offer migrates employees from the district’s traditional health care plan to the high-deductible plan currently available, and removes a spending cap on health care costs. The cap was a funding limit that, when surpassed, required employees to split costs 50-50 with the district. Beginning in January 2020, every employee will migrate to one of two high-deductible plans — the current high-deductible plan and a new modified one offered in the district’s proposal. Under the new plans, the district will pay 85% of health care costs, while the employee pays 15% with no cap.

The traditional plan had more expensive premiums, meaning more money taken out of employees’ paychecks. The high-deductible plan ensures less expensive premiums, but has a higher upfront cost to employees receiving medical care.

The Clarion previously reported in May that some employees on the traditional plan could have expected to pay $1,000 a month next year for their health care plan. When more than 400 educators moved to the high-deductible plan, the district saved $1.2 million, a May 16 press release from the employee associations said.

The agreed-upon proposal includes other benefits too. The district is going to put $668,748 into the Employee Health Care Reserve Account, an account that is used to pay for health care costs that exceed what’s anticipated in a year. The district is also increasing their annual contributions offering to $800 per employee, which can be used toward medical expenditures.

Wage increases, including 0.5% for last year, 1% for this year and 2% for next year, were also included in the proposal, and language was included to reflect district concerns about one-time money that’s currently tied up in a state lawsuit. If the lawsuit determines the one-time money will not come, the 2% wage increase for next year will be reduced accordingly.

Another important element of the proposal makes support staff eligible for coaching and extracurricular positions and stipends.

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