Summit County Teachers’ salary negotiations set to begin | ParkRecord.com

Summit County Teachers’ salary negotiations set to begin

Douglas Greenwood, Of the Record Staff

Salary and benefits negotiations between Park City School District administrators and the Park City Education Association, the collective-bargaining union of teachers, are scheduled to begin early next week, according to association president Heidi Matthews. The two committees plan to hold about five, full-day sessions throughout the next few months with a goal to finish them by June, said Park City School District Superintendent Ray Timothy.

The teacher’s union, which consists of about 80 percent of the district faculty, has begun to collect information, opinions and requests through an online, member-only survey, Matthews said. Results of the survey will be gathered and organized before negotiations start, she added.

The discussions will focus on the professional agreement and will deal with salaries and benefits, and working conditions, which covers paid-leave, transfers, working hours planning time and professional development, according to Matthews.

The primary consideration is the strength of the budget, Timothy said. District administrators look at the state of the economy, inflation, changes to the cost of living and filling positions that are necessary or difficult to fill, he added.

"Our [school] board has always taken the position that they would like to have the highest salaries in the state to be able to attract the best teachers here into our district," Timothy said. But, he added, "We have to stay within our budgetary means."

"If you’re negotiating, and the employee group is hoping for a salary increase, but yet your health-costs skyrocket, then that obviously takes away from your ability to even consider any kind of a salary increase," Timothy said. "I’ve found our employee groups very active in trying to help curb those costs so that they can focus more on salary."

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Last year, district administrators met budget restrictions by not offering a cost-of-living increase and by reducing certified teaching positions through attrition in order to ensure the teachers’ built-in annual increases received funding. Steps are increases in salary based on the number of years a teacher has worked, Timothy said. Salaries among Park City teachers differ from first-year to 25th-year by about $11,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree and almost $20,000 for those with 45 hours beyond a master’s degree in education.

Lane increases are based on the level of education a teacher has earned. A 25-year Park City teacher with a master’s degree plus 45 credit hours of graduate coursework in education can earn about $25,000 more annually than a 25-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, according to the district’s salary schedule.

"The greatest challenge has been the downturn of the economy and the impact that’s had on our resources," Timothy said.

Due to economic constraints, cost-of-living increases haven’t been offered to Park City teachers for the last few years, according to Matthews. In order to secure a pay raise, many teachers again became students themselves by heading back to school to advance their own education, she added.

Funding steps and lanes isn’t open to much negotiation because of the precise guidelines outlined in the district salary schedule, Matthews said. Most negotiations come through benefits and working conditions, she added.

"We became self-insured, which means we don’t pay an insurance premium to a provider," Timothy said. The district absorbs the full cost of the initial insurance costs for each full-time employee. Employees who want to upgrade their coverage can opt to pay the difference themselves.

Matthews said she is optimistic that the district will continue to offer competitive salaries. "We’re moving forward in so many areas that to not fund steps and lanes would be inconsistent with the direction of our school district," she said.

The PCEA negotiating committee consists of Matthews, former PCEA president and current high school physics teacher Mike Holland and fourth-grade teacher Charlie Matthews, who has also served as the association president in the past.

Park City District administrators Greg Proffit and Tim McConnel will join Timothy as members of the district negotiating committee.

Once the collaborative plan is presented to the association members, it is voted on and ratified in order to be approved by the District Board of Education, Timothy said.

North Summit School District

Negotiations in North Summit School District generally begin in May after administrators receive final legislative revenue reports, North Summit Superintendent Steve Carlsen said. About 75-80 percent of the faculty belongs to the North Summit Education Association.

"What we are hopeful of in the education community is to at least get as much as we did last year," Carlsen said. Last year, North Summit teachers received step and lane increases, but not cost-of-living raises, according to Carlsen. Benefits packages are not negotiated, but the district covers the full cost of healthcare premiums, he said.

Carlsen will join the district business administrator and two board members for the negotiations.

South Summit School District

South Summit Superintendent Barry Walker said he doesn’t participate in salary discussions, but focuses on the education aspect of his leadership.

The South Summit school board president joins two other board members to meet with representatives from the South Summit Education Association in late March or early April. Last year, the district funded step and lane increases for faculty members, but did not have the budget to offer raises for cost-of-living, according to Walker.

"Indications are that we will probably have less money this year than we had last year," he said. "Negotiations could be difficult."

To compensate for reduced funding coming in each year for the last few years, the district has cut the number of teachers as much as realistically possible, according to Walker. He added that he hopes to still offer to pay healthcare premiums in full for all full-time employees.

All three Summit County school districts also conduct separate negotiations with classified district employees, which include maintenance, food service, secretarial and other non-teaching positions.

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