A changing tone in Coeur d’Alene

There’s no deal in place — but negotiations in the Coeur d’Alene School District could be moving in the right direction.

The gap between the two sides has narrowed from about $3 million to $1.5 million, and tensions between district and union leaders seem to be easing a bit.

Negotiations resumed Monday with some better news on the budget front. The district will leave 4.5 certified jobs unfilled. Meanwhile, the impacts of the across-the-board federal “sequestration” budget cuts will be less than originally expected. (Details from Maureen Dolan of the Coeur d’Alene Press.)

The district hopes to erase the $1.5 million shortfall through savings on benefits costs.

“Under the new offer, the district proposes covering 67.5 percent of family premiums, down from 71 percent under the current contract,” reports Scott Maben of the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “Annual deductibles, now $200 for individuals and $400 for families, would increase to $750 and $1,500.”

The meeting began on a conciliatory note. New School Board Chairman Tom Hearn read a statement urging cooperation. Hearn’s statement drew praise, via Facebook, from newly elected School Board member Christa Hazel.

“Kudos to Tom Hearn for setting a positive tone in yesterday’s contract negotiations, It felt good to sit in on negotiations knowing that we WILL reach an agreement that will be positive for our community.” (More from Dave Oliveria’s Huckleberries Online blog at the Spokesman-Review.)

Union leaders said they need time to consider Monday’s offer. The next negotiating session is scheduled for July 25.

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