2010-12-23 / Front Page

SF Rejects Fact-Finders Repor t

District, teachers’ union to resume negotiations
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

As a follow-up to a unanimous decision on December 7, the Southern Fulton School Board voted a second time last Thursday to reject the fact-finders report that was prepared by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board after the board and members of the Southern Fulton Education Association reached a stalemate in their teacher contract negotiations.

Contract negotiations have been ongoing since January of 2010, with the most recent agreement with SFEA expiring on June 30, 2010. Outstanding issues between the board and SFEA, according to Labor Relations Board fact-finder and attorney Robert C. Gifford, include length of contract, salary, extracurricular salaries, service increments, personal and emergency leave, association leave, fair share, retroactivity, lump-sum payment option and health insurance.

Due to being well into the first year of a new agreement, Gifford suggested in his findings a new contract penned between the board and SFEA should commence dating back to July 1 and conclude in three years. Further retroactivity, however, is addressed by Gifford on an issue by issue basis.

In regard to health insurance, the school district is proposing copays for the following areas: office visits/specialists $20; emergency room $50; hard substitution for prescription drugs; and mail-order prescriptions: generic ($5), brand formulary ($25) and brand non-formulary ($50).

In addition to their proposal, the district is asking that each member of the bargaining unit contribute toward the cost of health insurance premiums. The payments, the district maintains, will be determined by “multiplying the amount listed in the support staff employee agreement for the applicable level of coverage times a factor equal to the average teacher salary divided by the average salary of all employees in the support staff unit.”

The SFEA is not only opposing the district’s health insurance proposal but is asking for insurance provisions to remain unchanged or status quo.

“The district has demonstrated that its cost of providing health insurance continues to rise. I recommend that the PPO plan be identical to the PPO plan the district currently offers to the educa- tional support professional association with the same copays. However, professional employees shall contribute monthly amounts toward the cost of health insurance premiums,” recommended the fact-finder. Monthly payments under Gifford’s report would range from $30 effective January 2011 for individual coverage to $50 in 2012-13. Family coverage would require an initial monthly payment of $60 and rise by $10 annually, Gifford suggested.

In reviewing the salary schedule for the 2009-10 school year, Gifford found that placement on the 19- step scale is based on years of service as well as level of education. The district is currently proposing an increase in salaries by an average of 1 percent for each year of the contract. The district is supporting its position with various factors ranging from the Act 1 index and higher health insurance premiums to higher retirement contribution rates and increased unemployment.

Meanwhile, SFEA contends their salaries should increase by an average of 5.25 percent annually (an average increase of $2,644 for 2010-11; $2,786 for 2011-12; and $3,086 for 2013-14). The association is also asking for four additional columns to be placed on the salary schedule ranging from M+36 and EdD/PhD. Supporting their request is a review of the district’s fund balance, the district’s budgeting practices, a breakdown of the district’s revenues and expenditures, the local tax effort and the market value of taxable property.

“The district maintains extremely healthy fund balances as they significantly exceed the levels recommended by Standard and Poors. Notwithstanding the strength of the district’s fiscal condition, I must consider the economic downturn and the facts that will challenge the district in the near future,” said Gifford in the fact-finding report. He in turn suggests a compromise of annual increases of 3.39 percent ($1,711) for 2010-11; 2.88 percent ($1,501) for 2011- 12; and 2.46 percent ($1,321) for 2012-13.

In the area of extracurricular salaries, Gifford went on to recommend the district cover an increase of 2 percent for the current school year and a subsequent 1 percent increase in 2011-12. A freeze was suggested for the final year of the three-year contract.

He also recommended the position of crosscountry coach receive a salary of $3,000 next year and track first-, secondand third-assistant coaches, $2,100.

With the board unanimously rejecting Gifford’s report twice, the district and SFEA will now return to the drawing board and move forward with negotiations overseen by the mediator. The board is represented in negotiations by attorney Patrick Fanelli of Andrews and Beard, while UniServ rep Kelly Clouser from the Pennsylvania State Education Association is negotiating on behalf of the teachers’ union.

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