Teachers, district hashing out pay | SierraSun.com

Teachers, district hashing out pay

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

Teacher contract negotiations for the 2006-07 school year are underway and, as usual, it looks like the process could be a long one.

“What they want and what we have to offer right now is far apart,” said Jo Wilson, assistant superintendent of personnel for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.

Teachers from the Tahoe Truckee Education Association (TTEA) entered negotiations aiming high for a 7.5 percent cost of living adjustment, while the district’s negotiating committee countered with a 3 percent salary adjustment with plans to discuss finances again in the fall after the district’s budget is finalized.

Neither side accepted the proposals and are now at an impasse, requiring that a state mediator be brought into the mix to help the groups reach a resolution later this summer.

“They keep telling us that we’re number one, but actions speak louder than words,” said TTEA President Jim Driscoll. “We kind of feel last all the time. Most of us have almost two college degrees, and it’s just a sad state of affairs that teachers cannot afford to live in this town.”

Teachers said they wanted to enter negotiations early in order to get the ball rolling, though Wilson and former TTEA president Erika Murphy both said they knew entering into negotiations before the budget was finalized would be tricky.

“I understand their side, and they’re wanting to get it settled,” Wilson said. “But one of the board’s main duties is fiscal responsibility and they certainly can’t put the district in jeopardy.”

The district was, however, able to negotiate with teachers to change some contract language, a move that positively impacted both parties, including summer school teachers who will be receiving an hourly pay increase, Murphy said.

And while the district’s budget will not be set in stone until mid-September, teachers are already looking at the district’s projected revenue with optimism. The district is projecting tax revenues this year at about $40 million, according to the March 15 interim budget report, up about $2 million from last year, which means there could be additional money in the pool for teachers and programming.

“It was one of the nicer negotiations I’ve sat down in because we agreed on a lot of items to benefit the teachers, the kids, and the district,” Murphy said. “Impasse is just part of the process.”