Below is the full official statement, read at the June 8th 2015 Board Meeting by Lisa Bowman, regarding the rejection of the Fact-Finder report.
The Fact-Finding process is designed to move along a negotiation process that is stalled. Given the lack of movement in negotiations the Board Directors called for Fact-Finding. Inherent in moving things along is the possibility that mistakes will be made for the sake of resolution. The Board of Directors have identified at least two such mistakes in the Fact-Finder Report. First, Mr. Timothy Brown, the Fact Finder, recommended a three tiered benefits plan in his recommendation. The Board has been informed that Independence Blue Cross is not able to offer such a plan. Second, a prescription plan is not accounted for in the recommendations.
There are parts of the report we could be agreeable to and there are parts we are not. Since we are required to accept the report in full we cannot do so and must therefore rejected the report.
However, even if these two obvious issues were not considered in determining whether to accept or reject the fact-finding report, the board would reject the report due to the long term cost and impact the contract will have on the District and the education provided to our children. To be specific, and we will express this to the Association when we meet in negotiations, the Board felt that the health insurance plan recommended by the Fact Finder does not provide the long term savings we were hoping to achieve through a higher deductible health plan as proposed by the District. All along in negotiations the Board has been adamant that we need to see significant savings in health care.
The Board Directors value the teachers and support staff represented in the collective bargaining negotiations and we desire to provide a reasonable wage increase to the bargaining unit employees. But in order to do this the Board Directors must evaluate what the community can afford to pay – not what the Board Directors can legally levy in taxes – and the impact of spending on programs for students.
The District has proposed a Qualified High Deductible Plan (QHDHP) that will allow for wage increases and result in lower monthly premium costs to employees. In addition a QHDHP as proposed will allow the district to contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA) for each employee. In the absence of a QHDHP the Fact Finder’s wage increases are unsustainable and would only be possible by staff and program cuts.
The District has offered a proposal that:
- Provides pay increases to all staff
- Decreases monthly health care premium co-shares to eligible employees – the result of which is more money in those employees pay checks
- Contributes tax free contributions into employee owned Health Savings Account – which belong to employees
- Maintains jobs and programs
Qualified High Deductible Health Plans are common in the private sector and are being included in school district plans – an example of such is neighboring school district Pequea Valley. We hope to have the opportunity to help association members better understand the benefits to them of the proposed QHDHP and HSA plan and we hope to help the community at-large understand how the QHDHP creates sustainability for the community. We are hopeful that the parties can come to a quick resolution by using the fact finders report as a basis for a settlement. However, as it is written this report does not meet the objectives established by the board. We look forward to returning to the negotiating table until a deal is completed that is financially sustainable and will not impact the students in the classroom.