The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

April 8, 2014

Fact finder urged higher raises for Danville teachers

MILTON — DANVILLE — During previous negotiations with the school district, Danville teachers requested salary rates below those recommended by a state-appointed fact finder, according to the president of the Danville Education Association.

The fact-finder’s report was requested by the district last year, as part of arbitration between them and the teacher’s union. The district ultimately voted down the salary recommendations, calling them financially unfeasible.

Click Here to read the full report.

Contract negotiations have been a sticking point between the school board and DEA for months, with the DEA threatening a teachers’ strike for April 17.

Dave Fortunato, president of the DEA, said the fact-finder would not have suggested the increases if the district could not afford them.

“If an independent person comes in and looks at the school districts’ records and says they can afford it, I have to go with the independent person,” Fortunato said. “Why would I doubt it?”

According to that document, the fact-finder had recommended the district increase teacher pay by 2.5 percent for the 2012-2013 school year, with no pay step advancement; increase salaries 2.8 percent, plus a step advancement, for the 2013-2014 school year; increase salaries by 3 percent, plus a step advancement, for the 2014-2015 school year, and increase salaries by 3.2 percent plus a step advancement for the 2015-2016 school year.

Each step advancement equates to about another 2.5 percent increase in pay, according to Fortunato. Thus, the salary increases for the fact-finder’s contract would have ranged from a 2.5 percent increase to a 5.7 percent increase over four years, he said.

In contrast, the teacher’s offer listed in the fact-finder report were a total salary percentage increase of 4.0 percent for the first year of the contract; an increase of 3.9 percent increase for the second and third years; a 3.8 percent increase for the fourth year, and a 3.5 percent increase for the fifth and sixth years. All of the percentage increases offered by the teachers already had the step movements figured into their totals, Fortunato said.

In addition, $300 would have been paid to teachers on the top step, though this would not have been added to their salary.

Fortunato also stated that the district would not need to dip into it’s approximately $6 million reserve fund to cover “fair raises” for teachers. He said he commended the district for putting that money aside for increasing costs to retirement funds.

When asked if the school board would have been willing to accept these lower salary increases suggested by the DEA in the report, board president Allan Schappert called it a moot point, saying the board’s current job is to make history, not record it.

“I’m not going to comment on their figures, since that was then and this is now and we still don’t have a contract. There are areas of differing points of view that have not been reconciled,” he said.

The school district had recently posted a comparison between the fact-finder’s suggestions and the district’s most recent contract offer to the teacher’s on the district website. According to the district’s calculations, the district’s four-year contract would have resulted in $832,644.26 in additional wages split amongst the DEA’s 190 members, whereas the fact-finder’s suggested four-year contract would have seen $2.15 million split amongst the 190 teachers.

Fortunato said the DEA has been interested in reducing the salary scale so that step movements are smaller in size. Such an adjustment would save the district money down the road, he said. “It would take an understanding from both the school board and association to do that,” he added.

Schappert’s only response was that Fortunato’s comments sounded like the same sort of negotiating in public that the DEA had recently filed charges for against the school. Last week, the school district was filed an unfair labor practice charge by the DEA after the school board publicly revealed their February contract offer to the teachers. Schappert said the board had consulted with its attorneys several times before making their decision.

Fortunato, Schappert and their negotiation advisers met at 2 p.m. Monday in a “sidebar” meeting to discuss the teacher contract and the scheduled strike. A final negotiating session is scheduled for April 16, the day before the strike.

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