Cd'A teacher contract negotiations still moving, but slowly

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COEUR d'ALENE - Teacher contract negotiations will continue into the summer in Coeur d'Alene.

Negotiating teams for the school board and the teachers union returned to the bargaining table Tuesday and again failed to reach an agreement on teacher pay for the next fiscal year.

"All we ask for is the money that was budgeted for salaries by the state to go for salaries, not to pay benefits," said Tim Sandford, a Lake City High School music teacher and the teachers union's lead negotiator.

Superintendent Matt Handelman said the board met Monday and the trustees are not prepared to offer the teachers more money, but they are also not ready to go to mediation.

Last year negotiations became deadlocked in late August and required a federal mediator.

"It ended up costing the district over $400,000 more," Handelman said.

Districts throughout the state are negotiating teacher salaries under the new career ladder legislation passed into law earlier this year. Additional state salary funding specifically for teachers is designed to incrementally increase minimum teacher salaries over a five-year period.

School officials in Coeur d'Alene anticipate $1.4 million in new revenue for employee salaries in 2015-16. Of that amount, $1.2 million is allocated for teachers. The new salary revenue also includes $141,448 for other school district employees who do not hold education credentials, and $85,646 for administrators.

The school board's most recent offer to the teachers union would boost educator salaries through the so-called "steps and lanes," a salary grid teachers move along each year as they acquire more experience and earn education credits. The school board offered to increase every cell on the grid by $1,000.

For the majority of teachers the board's offer would result in a salary hike ranging from 3 to 7 percent. For some teachers, who also earn additional education credits, the increase could be from 3 to 11.75 percent.

The boost would be less for the district's most highly educated, experienced teachers. Those who have taught for 15 years and earned a master's degree will receive a 1.7 percent increase.

The district estimates its cost to fund the cells on the salary matrix by $1,000 each will be $683,000, plus $322,000 to fund the experience and education components. The total amount the district is offering toward teacher pay is $1.1 million, which includes $106,000 to renew the teachers' insurance policy.

The board's last offer will actually cost the district $1.4 million, which includes the cost to give the same insurance and a 1 percent raise to the district's employees who don't have teaching credentials. That includes bus drivers, food service workers, custodians, paraprofessionals, secretaries, technicians, mechanics, central office administrators and principals.

The teachers union negotiators countered the board's proposal with a request for $870,368 for salaries and $180,000 for steps and lanes.

At the end of the two-hour negotiating session, both teams agreed to meet again in late July.

"I think the new board needs to take a look at this," said Trustee Tom Hearn, a member of the board's negotiating team.

Trustees-elect Casey Morrisroe and Tambra Pickford will take their seats on the board July 1. They will replace Tom Hamilton, who did not seek re-election, and Terri Seymour, who lost her seat in the May election.

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