Park City’s Board of Education says compensation negotiations with teachers have restarted
The Park City School District and teachers’ representatives have restarted compensation negotiations two weeks after the elected officials passed a budget that included an employee pay freeze and more than $3 million in cuts in response to expected funding reductions from the state that did not materialize.
Representatives from both the Board of Education and the Park City Education Association, the union that represents the district’s teachers, confirmed to The Park Record that negotiations have resumed and that the groups will be working on the issue in coming weeks.
Compensation is the largest issue left on the table after a contract governing most every other aspect of teachers’ employment was negotiated earlier in June. The licensed professional agreement would be in effect until June 2023 and was unanimously passed by the Board of Education at its June 16 meeting. Members of the Park City Education Association overwhelmingly approved the agreement, union Co-Vice President Aaron Webb said.
The agreement covers issues like sick leave, termination protocols, teacher conduct and workplace conditions. Webb pointed to personal leave policies, clarification about extra-duty pay and prep time allocations as issues of importance.
It leaves aside the issue of how much teachers will be paid, a source of contention at the board meeting in mid-June, the final one of the 2019-20 school year.
Teachers for years received an annual raise and the latest compensation agreement, which covered a three-year period and expired Tuesday, included year-over-year raises as well as a $7,000 across-the-board wage increase.
Representatives of the teacher’s union at the board meeting characterized the pay freeze as tantamount to a pay cut, and decried what they portrayed as the Board of Education’s unilateral cessation of compensation negotiations.
The deep budget cuts were made in anticipation of funding shortfalls from the state due to economic fallout from the coronavirus. School districts were asked to prepare scenarios of 2%, 5% or 10% cuts to the portion of their funding they receive from the state.
The Park City Board of Education passed a budget that included the worst-case-scenario, 10% cuts, but the Legislature in a special session two days later essentially held funding steady for the school district compared to the previous year.
The district has about $1.3 million more in revenue compared to the previous fiscal year because of growth in property values.
That money was used to offset the potential budget cuts but could be used for other costs, like increasing teacher salaries or addressing the expenses brought by COVID-19. The district’s pandemic-related costs are largely unknown but are expected to be significant next school year. In the district budget approved in June, the new growth revenue is listed as a compensation consideration.
Board of Education President Andrew Caplan had said that, before the budget uncertainty brought by the pandemic, the board was planning a roughly $1.4 million compensation increase for employees, likely packaged as a cost-of-living adjustment.
He characterized the freeze in teacher salary as a timing issue, not a philosophical one. He said at the June meeting the Board of Education wants to pay teachers more but would likely have to wait a year or two until the financial situation stabilizes.
The board will almost certainly amend the budget it passed after the funding cuts anticipated at the state level did not occur. Its next regularly scheduled meeting is in August, the first of the next school year. Officials have said that having a finalized budget in place as long before the school year as possible is beneficial for hiring staff and preparing programming.
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