The Blaine County School District and the Blaine County Education Association representatives are meeting this week to negotiate a new Master Agreement for certified staff members. The agreement is comprehensive. Two of the main issues facing the negotiation teams this year are health insurance and salary. Salary and benefit packages are by far the largest expenses any district has and, while this number in the abstract seems large, what this means in reality is teachers in the classroom, low class sizes, and support services for students. Ultimately, it means quality education for the students of Blaine County. In these times of budget cuts we the certified staff of Blaine County represented by the Blaine County Education Association want the community to understand how this negotiation may impact our community.
Despite the recession ending and the state of Idaho increasing funding for education, real incomes for certified staff have not kept pace with the cost of living. We have taken no increase in the last year and very small (less than a percent) in the previous year despite finding cost savings for the District in the area of insurance. Last year, the certified staff chose to forgo a small raise due to an increase in insurance premiums and we recommended that any money budgeted for salary increases be applied to future premium increases.
Through a memorandum of understanding (MOU)* issued at last year’s negotiations between the BCEA and the district, the District was asked to maintain a fund of $122,000 to cover increases in insurance premiums for district certified and classified employees. The projected increase in insurance premiums for the next fiscal year is estimated to be 2.4%, or $110,000. In the past, the District has not attempted to budget for increases in employee insurance. The MOU negotiated last year made a recommendation to the Board of Trustees that the balance of the budgeted amount for salary increases for 2016-2017 be used towards insurance premium increases in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
The BCEA membership has acted in a fiscally prudent nature by limiting salary increases. We have shown sound stewardship of taxpayer funds by requesting the MOU with administration to cover future insurance rate increases. Blaine County residents expect the best and deserve to receive it through their investment in this district. A reasonable pay and benefits packages ensure that educators of the highest caliber will continue to be attracted to our district and remain for many years.
Master Agreement Negotiations begin April 25, 2017 at 4:30-8:30pm and will continue on the following dates April 26, May 3, and May 4 at the same time. All meetings are open to the public for observation per Idaho Code and will be held in the Minnie Moore Room of the Community Campus.
*Master Agreement 2016-2017 w/ MOU