Teachers, school district to try again at negotiating table
After months of unsuccessful negotiations, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District negotiating team and the Tahoe Truckee Education Association will face off to discuss teacher pay increases for the last time Wednesday.
At the closed meeting the district negotiating team will be making a new undisclosed offer for a teacher cost of living increase for the 2004-05 school year. If union representatives like the offer, they will present it to their members for ratification. The offer would then go back to the board for final approval. If the offer is rejected the two groups will see a state mediator.
“We are making the best offer that we can responsibly make,” said school board President Cindy Gustafson.
Teachers in the district, who have not received a cost of living increase for three years, have been arguing since April for a pay increase of 6 percent to compensate for rising costs of living.
“Their decision, so far, has been to pay us less than state average. I don’t know how to validate that,” said Kirby Reed, a teacher at North Tahoe High School who represents the teachers’ union at the negotiating table.
Knowing that the board could not give all 6 percent at one time, the association hoped instead for a two-year contract settlement that would couple a 2 percent retroactive increase for the 2004-05 school year, with a 4 percent increase for the 2005-06 school year, said school district Superintendent Dennis Williams.
The district, meanwhile, argued instead for a 4 percent increase for 2004-05 and 2005-06. In the spring of the 2003-04 school year, the district raised the medical insurance cap from $6,800 to $8,500, in the face of skyrocketing insurance costs.
The increased contribution from the district, Williams said, is equivalent to a 3 percent increase for the teachers from the district budget. The district’s contribution still does not fully cover teachers’ health insurance costs, which have increased roughly 29 percent in the past two years, Williams said.
“We would like to be able to fully fund [the teachers’] cost of living increases, but insurance is eating up the budget,” Gustafson said.
Since April, the board has offered an additional 1 percent, for what they say is a 4 percent total salary increase.
The association did not accept the offer, resulting in an impasse.
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