Nampa district, union spar over insurance issues

Because the Nampa School District failed to reach an agreement on employee health benefits, district employees could now face millions of dollars in federal fines, the head of Nampa’s teachers’ union said Friday afternoon.

During Friday morning’s failed contract negotiations, the Nampa Education Association suggested a memorandum of understanding covering health benefits. The union said this was an attempt to avoid employee fines that could go into effect July 1, if the insurance issue isn’t unresolved. The fines, an offshoot of the federal health care law, could total $1,000 per employee, plus $100 per day, union officials say.

In a statement Friday afternoon, union President Mandy Simpson said she was “stunned” the district rejected the MOU on health insurance.

The district rejected the MOU for several reasons — including the fact that it would have left short-term disability coverage unchanged. Administrators want to make short-term disability an opt-in program, which would save the district $235,000.

On Friday afternoon, the Nampa School Board voted to send out teacher contracts that make no changes in health insurance language.

“The board directed the district to keep health, dental and voluntary vision insurance the same as the current year at a cost of $755,000, so we don’t anticipate incurring any fines,” district spokeswoman Allison Westfall said Friday.

Here is Simpson’s statement, in full:

The NEA has come to each meeting willing and ready to negotiate in good faith. In our latest proposal this morning, we agreed to the 14 days of furlough proposed by the board. We fully expected the board to accept our proposal, or at least respond with a reasonable counter. Instead we received a third counter from the Board that made no movement toward a mutually agreeable settlement. 

We wanted to come to a financial agreement today for two major reasons: 

1. The individual teacher contract deadline looming July 1. 

2. To avoid the insurance penalties reported to us by the district which, according to their information, would amount to $1,000 for each employee impacted by the insurance package plus another $100 per day for each employee until an agreement is reached. 

Although we were disappointed with the lack of movement toward resolution on salary, we were still committed to avoiding the penalties that will be imposed if the insurance agreement was not reached. The NEA proposed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that, we believe, would have avoided more expenditure to the district. We were stunned when the board rejected this solution that would have avoided penalties that could amount to more than $3 million before we meet again on July 18. Those penalties could total nearly twice the cost of our proposal this morning. 

In spite of our frustration, we intend to return to the table July 18 to continue negotiating toward a mutually agreeable settlement. The students and citizens of Nampa deserve high-quality public education and district leadership that is responsive and willing to negotiate in good faith.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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