COEUR d'ALENE - The appointed trustees who lost their election bids to hold on to their positions on the Coeur d'Alene school board aren't leaving quietly.
When the trustees met Monday to vote on the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, Brent Regan said he could not "in good conscience" give his blessing to the budget.
Regan, whose term ends June 30, blasted the Coeur d'Alene Education Association during the meeting, stating that the teachers union members engaged in bad faith negotiations last spring before the election.
"They came to the table wanting to, I guess, demonize us," Regan said.
Because of the teachers union's lack of good faith, the current board members are faced with the prospect of approving a budget that "hurts kids," because it includes cuts, Regan said.
He said he would rather not vote on the budget and let the new trustees decide if they want to "hurt kids."
Local school districts are statutorily required to have balanced budgets in place by the end of June, even if contract-related budget items remain unresolved.
During negotiations, teachers union representatives rejected a school board proposal for a health insurance plan that included a $2,000 deductible and a health savings account, but provided no coverage for prescription drugs.
While the plan was expected to save the district about $2 million, the teachers said it would cost an employee with one child an additional $1,730 per year.
The last negotiating session took place a week before the election and about 250 people, mainly teachers, showed up to observe the proceedings.
Both sides agreed to suspend negotiations until the new trustees are in place.
Regan said the Coeur d'Alene Education Association members "like operating in an adversarial relationship, that there's got to be a bad guy in the room, and the board makes a convenient bad guy."
He said the teachers "used that, and they used it successfully" during the school board election campaign, and that it benefited the incoming elected trustees - Christa Hazel, Tom Hearn and Dave Eubanks - at the polls.
"Unfortunately for the new trustees, they're walking into this pit, this problem," Regan said.
The budget for the next school year is balanced at $61.4 million. Last year's budget was $60.2 million.
Wendell Wardell, the district's chief operating officer, said the budget was balanced with the intention that it will be amended once the contract with the teachers is settled.
Several vacancies will remain unfilled until the negotiations are complete, he said.
Regan and Ann Seddon, whose term also ends June 30, asked the district's administration what the consequences would be if the budget was not settled by the end of the month.
"We would be out of compliance and the state would have the right to stop shipping us money," Wardell said.
Matt Handelman, who is taking over as the district's interim superintendent, told the trustees that while he understood what they were saying, he questioned whether it was "good for kids" to fail to pass a budget that could affect the district's state funding.
"Budgets have been passed many times before negotiations have ended," Handelman said.
The budget passed with a 4-1 vote. Regan cast the dissenting vote.