Cd'A ratifies teachers contract

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The Coeur d'Alene School District has a new teachers contract, ratified on Monday by both the district trustees and members of the Coeur d'Alene Education Association teachers union.

Cobbled from several weeks of negotiations, the 2012-13 contract includes off-setting a $3.2 million shortfall, adding two furlough days for teachers and hiking some of educators' insurance costs.

"I think an excellent job was done (with negotiating)," said Trustee Jim Purtee at the board's Monday evening meeting. "We are all members of the same community, and I can assure everyone that the five trustees are as committed to excellent education and an excellent school district as any teacher."

The trustees voted unanimously to ratify the contract at their meeting in the Midtown Center.

Earlier in the day, union members also voted "overwhelmingly" to ratify the contract, CEA representative Kristi Milan announced at the trustees' meeting.

The union declined to reveal the exact tally of votes.

"We feel like we had done the best we could, given the circumstances of budget constraints," Milan said of the ratified contract.

Due to anticipated funding shortages, the contract includes two non-instructional furlough days for teachers.

The district is also reducing its contribution to teachers' family health insurance by 2 percent.

The contract also specifies reducing the district's fund balance by $1.3 million, and adding a $150,000 Blue Cross rebate to the general fund.

A total of $2,043,000 will be saved from the contract measures.

Superintendent Hazel Bauman said the district will fill the remaining $1.2 million gap by not purchasing two buses, lowering the fuel budget $50,000 and reducing faculty by nine teachers.

The curriculum budget will also be dropped $300,000, and two counselors and secretary positions will be cut.

"It's largely because state funding has gone down," Bauman said of the rollbacks.

Teachers wouldn't mind seeing a year without any cuts, said Coeur d'Alene High School teacher Bruce Twitchell at a union meeting earlier in the day.

"They are doing the best they can with the money that's available from the state," Twitchell acknowledged of the school district.

Still, teachers will be impacted by the cuts, he said.

Fewer teaching positions translates to larger class sizes, he explained.

"Even the addition of one or two kids can have an effect on a class," Twitchell said.

Jon Hastings, also a Coeur d'Alene High School teacher, lauded that union reps are doing their best with what's available.

"Everybody's in a hard place," Hastings said.

At the earlier meeting, Milan said there still might be enough budget dollars for the contract's contingency items, like taking back the two unpaid furlough days.

"Our people have looked over the budget, and we see a lot of pockets where there could be money," Milan said.

Other contingency measures include splitting leftover dollars between the budget and employees.

Benefited employees who hadn't received a raise would also collect a one-time payment in November.

As approved on Monday, the ratified contract also adds another 10 sick days that teachers can accrue, setting the total at 370 .

Under an MOU in the contract, the district will reopen its 2010-11 master contract if the Students Come First legislation is repealed.

Only updated salary, benefits and leaves will be added to the contract.

The trustees' meeting also included a brief hearing for the 2012-13 district budget, during which no members of the public cared to comment.

The proposed budget for next fiscal year is $78.8 million, down $5 million from the year before.

The budget can be viewed at the district website,

The trustees will vote to approve the budget at a special meeting on June 18.

Milan noted that under the Students Come First legislation, teacher contract negotiations are restricted to compensation and benefits.

"Until we repeal the Luna laws, that's all we can negotiate," Milan said.

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