Recommendations reasonable for tough economic times

  • Saturday, August 27, 2016 10:52am
  • Opinion

This week, the arbitrator involved in contract negotiations between the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association released his report, including his recommendations on contractual issues that had been sticking points for more than a year.

In a nutshell, arbitrator Gary Axon found valid points in both sides’ positions, as well as some not so valid points, and his recommendations in most places seek to split the difference. While there may be items in his recommendations that can be nitpicked, we wholeheartedly agree with the recommendation made in his conclusion — that it is in everyone’s best interests that the district and associations close a contract without further delay.

Certainly, both sides have the right to hold out for the best deal possible. But after well over a year at the bargaining table, it is clear that neither side is going to walk away entirely thrilled with the deal. Such is the nature of collective bargaining in uncertain financial times.

That uncertainty is something mentioned by Axon a number of times throughout his report. The arbitrator noted, for example, that he recommended a three-year agreement rather than the four-year deal proposed by the district because it was too long in a time of “economic flux.”

On health care, the arbitrator acknowledges the district’s need to reduce health care costs as the current plan is unsustainable, but found the district’s proposal goes too far, too fast in shifting costs to employees, particularly when proposed raises are minimal.

Likewise on salary and wage issues, the arbitrator rejected the associations’ suggested use of the general fund balance — the district’s savings account — to continue to cover the costs of raises and other expenditures. The recommendation to adopt the district’s proposal — some changes — was made to give the district some “breathing room to adjust to the rapidly changing economic picture in Alaska, as illustrated by Governor Walker’s veto of the education budget bill.”

Teachers and support staff already are into their second school year working under the status quo from the previous agreement, which expired at the end of the school year in 2015. With so much of Alaska’s fiscal situation uncertain, it would make sense for the school district and its employees to create some certainty at the local level with a new agreement.

As we said, when money is tight, it’s hard for anyone to walk away from the bargaining table entirely satisfied. But at this point, the arbitrator’s recommendations represent reasonable solutions to disputes that school district and employee association negotiators have not been able to solve themselves.

More in Opinion

Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Down to the wire: Be prepared before you vote

Remember your voice counts and all votes matter

Soldotna City Council member Justin Ruffridge. (Courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: We must refuse to reward ugly political tactics

With our vote we have to show that extremism and dishonesty do not win the day