Local kids and parents are in countdown mode as a new school year quickly approaches. The Snoqualmie Valley School District is set to begin in nine days – on Wednesday, September 4th. But as of Monday, August 26th, its teachers’ union has still to ratify a new contract so a new year can officially start.
According to the Snoqualmie Valley Education Education Association (SVEA) Union website, representatives met with SVSD contract negotiators in a 10-hour session on Friday, August 23, 2013, but ended the session when it was clear they weren’t going to get anywhere.
The SVEA website says, “The district refuses to offer a fair financial settlement.” SVSD offered its teachers .5% annual salary increase, or a 1.5% increase over the next three years. SVEA’s website, though, says that is not equal to the 5-7% increases neighboring school districts have settled on over the same time period.
Snoqualmie Valley teachers did not experience a state-mandated 1.9% salary decrease in their last two-year contract. SVSD reached into its reserve fund to avoid the state salary reduction. Along with tapping into the reserve fund to avoid that teacher pay decrease, the district also used the fund to rectify a 2011-12 budget shortfall caused by less than expected student enrollment.
School districts typically try to keep about 5% of its annual operating budget in a reserve fund to help pay for unforeseen expenses, prepare for opening year budgets of new schools, etc. SVSD’s reserve fund was approximately $2.8 million for this current fiscal year, which ends August 31st. The new proposed budget pumps another $775,000 into the fund, bringing it up from 4.6% to 5.9%.
SVSD Director of Business Services, Ryan Stokes, spoke about that reserve fund at past board meetings, saying that because the fund was lower than in earlier years, it could start to impact SVSD’s Moody’s Bond Rating (which impacts interest rates of future school bonds) if the district doesn’t begin to increase their reserves. $400,000 of the proposed reserve fund increase is being saved in anticipation of opening the district’s 6th elementary school, which is expected in 2015 or 2016.
The SVEA Union President and Executive Board called for an emergency meeting on Monday, August 26th before an extra 7PM bargaining session with SVSD.
The SVEA Executive Board and Bargaining Team will meet at 4PM and then be joined by their Representative Council at 5PM. SVEA’s website states if significant progress isn’t made in Monday evening’s bargaining session, “further action will be needed” by its members.
According to the website, in addition to teacher salary, continuing negotiations will also address early release days, with SVEA saying 9 days are enough and the district needing 14; expanding teachers’ personal day usage; and class size.
Tomorrow, SVEA Union will bring the district’s latest contract offer to its August 27th General Membership Meeting at Mount Si High School that begins at 8:45AM.
SVEA’s current two-year contract expires August 31, 2013. Negotiations for that expiring contract also went down to the wire in 2011, but school still started on time.