Teachers' union and district reach tentative agreement
Negotiators for the Lake Oswego School District and the union representing local teachers reached a tentative agreement last week on a new labor contract.
The agreement still needs to be ratified by the School Board and by a vote of the union's membership, said Lake Oswego High School social studies teacher Gerrit Koepping, chief negotiator for the Lake Oswego Education Association.
LOEA members — who include teachers, counselors and other licensed professionals — are expected to vote when they return to their classrooms in August, Koepping told The Review on Friday.
Details of the contract will not be available until then, but some insights can be gleaned from the LOSD budget for 2017-18, which the School Board adopted on Monday. It is predicated on a 2 percent cost-of-living increase in salaries and wages, as well as some step increases.
Overall, salaries are projected to increase from $36.9 million in 2016-17 to $38.2 million in 2017-18; health benefit costs also will rise, from $11.5 million in the current fiscal year to $12.04 million in the coming year. The budget also contains no furlough days; in 2015-16, the district eliminated the cost-saving measure that had been in place since 2010-11.
Superintendent Heather Beck is scheduled to receive another one-year extension to her contract with the district, but she has chosen to wait until Sept. 30 "in solidarity" with the unions, School Board Chair Sarah Howell said Monday. The superintendent entered the district with a salary of $161,502, which rose to $166,260 for 2015-16 and to $169,585 for 2016-17. The 2017-18 budget used 2 percent ($172,977) as an estimated increase, with the final actual amount to be determined at a later date.
Total revenue in the operating budget for 2017-18 is about $74.8 million, with an estimated $76.46 million in expenditures from the general fund.
Like the budget, the teachers' union agreement has been months in the making. Contract negotiations began in April, with discussions covering wages, benefits and working conditions, Koepping said.
"While many school districts have seen this process become acrimonious, the healthy relationship between the teachers' association and the district created the conditions that allowed us to come to a fair agreement without any vitriol or discord," Koepping said.
The contract process was delayed because more than 80 percent of the district's revenue comes from the state, and officials in Salem needed more time to determine the financial impact of the Oregon Supreme Court's decision to overturn Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) cost reforms. Turns out, there was a $22 billion pension deficit to contend with.
School districts also now know the impact of the court's decision on them as well. The LOSD is facing a $1.66 million shortfall in the 2017-18 fiscal year, largely the result of the decision regarding PERS reforms. That shortfall is estimated based on a $7.8 billion state allocation to K-12 schools.
No layoffs or program cuts are included in the LOSD's proposed 2017-18 budget, though, because the district anticipated the PERS cost increases and initiated financial management strategies that have created a $13.6 million reserve, according to Stuart Ketzler, the LOSD's executive director of finance.
The LOEA includes about 390 members, who were represented in negotiations by Koepping, David Finkelman, LOEA president and Lakeridge Junior High School teacher; Laura Paxson Kluthe, past LOEA president and LOHS teacher; and LOEA members Melissa Crist (Lake Grove Elementary kindergarten teacher), Susan Fuller (a K-5 learning specialist in the district), Kevin Thompson (Lake Oswego Junior High teacher) and Molly Healy (LOJ counselor).
Negotiations are still underway with the Lake Oswego School Employees Association, which represents the district's classified employees.
The last time the district approved a contract with the teachers' and classified unions was in 2013. Both unions agreed to a three-year contract in 2013 with a 1 percent cost-of-living (COLA) increase, followed by a 2 percent COLA increase in the second and third years. All eligible employees received step increases, which are based on experience, and non-represented employees received the same pay increases.
In previous contracts, which were negotiated during the recession, there were no step increases for the first year and no COLA increases at all. In 2016, the unions and the district approved a 2 percent COLA increase in salaries and wages in one-year contract extensions.
AT THIS WEEK'S SCHOOL BOARD MEETING
¦ The School Board at its Monday meeting acknowledged outgoing board members John Wendland and Sarah Howell. Howell has served one four-year term and chose not to seek re-election. Wendland has served two four-year terms, including two years as chairman. Wendland was unseated by challenger Sara Pocklington, and Howell will be replaced by Rob Wagner. Pocklington and Wagner officially start July 1. The board also acknowledged Communications Director Nancy Duin's 19 years of service to the district; she is retiring, and her last day is June 30. And Kelli Cranston was honored for her first year of service as the superintendent's executive assistant.
¦ Board members voted 5-0 to approve spending an additional $50,000 in the General Fund's Instructional Services appropriation category to "improve program equity" beyond what was budgeted. "Improving program equity means ensuring similar programs have similar supports or opportunities," said Stuart Ketzler, the district's executive director of finance. The board also approved spending an additional $150,000 in the Grants Fund Supporting Services appropriation category to support "higher than projected staff and training costs." The Grant Fund's higher costs are the result of increased expenditures in federal grant programs for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title II (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability), LOSD documents state.
¦ The School Board unanimously approved a payment of $625,000 to Portland Public Schools to buy a 10-Plex set of modular portable classrooms. At its May 1 meeting, the board okayed the purchase of the portables. At a June 5 meeting, board members approved an intergovernmental agreement for the purchase and removal of the 10-Plex.
¦ In its capacity as the Contract Review Board, the board approved a contract with Sysco Portland for the 2017-18 year. The school district is a member of the nonprofit purchasing cooperative Oregon Child Nutrition Coalition, which provides bids that its individual members adopt for usage at the local level. Historical trends indicate that the district should expect to pay $350,000 to $400,000 to Sysco for food supplies under the contract.
— Jillian Daley