KCSD reaches agreement on five-year teachers' pact
● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett Consolidated School District has reached an agreement with the Kennett Education Association on a new five-year teachers' pact.
The Kennett School Board approved the deal on May 23, while members of the Kennett Education Association ratified the agreement with a “yes” vote on May 18. The contact was negotiated over a six-month period.
“We, the Kennett Consolidated School community, are ecstatic to have reached an amicable settlement with the Kennett Education Association for the next five years,” said superintendent Dr. Barry Tomasetti in a statement. “It clearly demonstrates our common goal to put kids first.”
The new contract calls for salary increases of 4 percent during the 2016-2017 school year, 2.25 percent in 2017-2018, 2.5 percent in 2018-2019, 2.6 percent in 2019-2020, and 2.7 percent in 2020-2021. These increases are inclusive of step movement and off-schedule bonuses. Educational credit adjustments have been limited to two moves over the five years of the contract.
Officials involved with the negotiations on both sides talked about working cooperatively to reach a deal that is good for both the school district and for the taxpayers in the district.
“The Kennett Consolidated School Board is very pleased that we have approved a contract which is a win for all stakeholders—our taxpayers, our teachers and faculty, and, most importantly, our students,” said school board president Kendra LaCosta. “The efforts of the Kennett Education Association and the Kennett Consolidated School District administration to work respectfully toward such an agreement highlights the commitment of all involved.”
Tomasetti said, “Throughout the negotiations process it was important for us to balance the financial constraints of the taxpayers with the need to recruit, retain, and reward highly qualified and dedicated professionals. With the contract behind us, united, we are committed to serving our community's educational needs.”
Michael Kelly, the president of the Kennett Education Association, said, “I am pleased that both parties were able to accomplish the goal of a more positive round of negotiations that culminated in a win-win contract for both parties. Both sides are to be commended for their hard work and commitment to this goal.”
In addition to the aforementioned agreement on salary increases, the new contract also includes changes in the benefits package that will result in savings to the district. In order to control costs, the prescription drug plan will change to a 5/30/45 premium plan with a 30-day maximum supply. Also, the district has moved to a single, unified medical plan. The medical benefit for fiscal years 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 is the Independence Blue Cross Personal Choice 20/30/70 plan. Effective on July 1, 2018, the medical plan will move to an Independence Blue Cross flex plan. Employees will contribute 12 percent toward the cost of the medical premiums.
The new contact will impact the budget moving forward, and the school board unanimously adopted a final budget of $81,793,364 for the 2016-2017 school year at its meeting on June 13. This is slightly less than the $82.2 million preliminary budget that was previously adopted.
School board member Michael Finnegan said that the Finance Committee recently reviewed the budget for the final time before making its recommendation on a final spending plan. He explained that the final budget being recommended by the committee was about $450,000 less than the preliminary budget that the board adopted five months ago. A significant portion of that expenditure reduction came from decreases in salaries and benefits due to retirements. The district projects to save about $119,000 for the next school year as a result of these retirements.
Overall, the school taxes are going up 2.23 percent, Finnegan said, and the average homeowner in the district will see a hike of $116 in the tax bill. The millage rate will increase from 28.6017 mills to 29.2408 mills to balance the budget.
Finnegan said that the budget meets the district's academic needs.
“The district continues to implement programs to challenge and engage students in the learning process,” he said. “The STEM program continues to be a success, and additional program offerings are being scheduled for 2016-2017. The budget includes two new certificated teaching positions, which will be utilized in the most effective manner possible to address academic concerns.”
Some of the items impacting the budget include salary increases and hikes in employee benefits that can be attributed largely to increases in the state-mandated Public School Employee Retirement System (PSERS) costs. Finnegan said that employee benefits are increasing by slightly more than $2 million as the contribution rate now stands at more than 30 percent.
“Just eight years ago,” Finnegan explained, “the state-determined contribution rate was under five percent. It has exponentially increased each year since then to reach the level it is set at for next year. These huge annual increases had to be absorbed into our budgets for each of these years.”
The good news, Finnegan said, is that the contribution rate is now at its peak level so there won't be significant year-to-year increases in the next few years.
Charter school funding continues to increase for the Kennett Consolidated School District—by approximately $300,000 for the next school year—due to a higher than normal number of charter school students receiving special education, Finnegan said.
He also expressed his concerns that the state budget, which was delayed by more than nine months for the current fiscal year, will continue to be an issue as state lawmakers fail to meet the deadlines for approving a state budget. “There has been little movement from the State Legislature to approve a 2016-2017 state budget,” he explained. “The lack of immediacy on behalf of the state leadership to adopt timely budgets jeopardizes the district's ability to make sound financial decisions.”
In other business at the June 13 meeting, the school board approved an agreement with the Krapf Bus Company to continue handling student transportation. The district originally outsourced its student transportation to Krapf Bus Company in 2006. The new agreement extends for five years, beginning on Aug. 1, 2016.
The school district is seeking a waiver from the land-development plan requirement for the construction of a new baseball field at the middle school. In exchange for New Garden Township granting that waiver, the district is agreeing to maintain the trees being planted around the baseball field to serve as a screen. The school district is also agreeing to maintain the rain garden.
The school board will meet again at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 11 at the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center.