Unionville-Chadds Ford administration lays out both sides of teacher negotiations
● By J. Chambless
The current teacher contract in the
Unionville-Chadds Ford School District doesn't expire until the end
of June, but the teachers and administration have been working toward
a new agreement since December.
On March 13, district representatives held a press conference to air the current state of the negotiations. The documents have since been posted online (www.ucfsd.org), and the issue was expected to be part of the March 16 School Board meeting, to be held at the Chadds Ford Elementary School.
Board members Gregg Lindner and Keith Knauss of the negotiating team, along with district superintendent John Sanville, laid out both sides of the contract issue. Lindner described the contract discussions, which are being held every couple of weeks, as “very professional so far.”
The teachers union is currently proposing a 5.01 percent increase in total compensation (salary plus benefits) over their next three-year contract, while the district is putting forward a 2.08 percent proposal over three years.
The district's guidelines, Lindner said, are arriving at a fair compensation and benefits package to keep recruiting top teachers, and making sure that the agreement doesn't force consideration of program cuts or raising class sizes. Any agreement must not exceed Act 1 taxing limits set by the state at 1.9 percent for 2015-16.
Knauss pointed out that the average employee in Pennsylvania can look for an approximate 2 percent raise in the coming year. “We feel we're living in a 2 percent world, and we feel that our offer is reasonable and competitive,” Knauss said.
“In an effort to provide an open and meaningful communication with our parents, taxpayers and the community, we wanted to provide an update of our single most substantial budget issue,” Lindner said. “We're very fortunate to have great teachers in the district, and the board feels very strongly that they should be fairly compensated. But at the same time, we have to balance their needs with the limitations on taxpayers and the increases being paid to them. It's our goal to find common ground.”
If no agreement is reached, Lindner said, there will be no change in salary or benefits, but there will still be a 1.85 percent increase in employment costs due to rising healthcare and pension costs. “With an Act 1 limit on tax increases of 1.9 percent this year, we either need to limit these benefit expense increases, or limit wage increases,” he said. “We cannot afford both a wage increase and maintaining current benefits.”
Lindner said that if the 5.01 percent cost increase is somehow approved, “the potential impact could be substantial. It could impact teacher demotions and layoffs, it could impact larger class sizes, and it would mean a substantial tax increase. Across-the-board reductions could be possible in programs offered to our students. And there would be a reduction in our ability to meet new challenges. And there would be the challenge of explaining to the public why teachers get that kind of an increase, because that's more than what the average person is getting in the state.”
Negotiations are continuing, Lindner said, “and we hope to find a balance between the teachers and the taxpayers.”
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.