Nampa teachers union budges on furloughs

The gap between Nampa School District and union negotiators is shrinking. At least somewhat.

The two sides moved a little bit closer to an agreement — and one that will result in some furlough days in the state’s third largest school district.

Nampa negotiations, 6.19.13
Nampa Education Association negotiators and district officials will resume negotiations on June 27.

On Wednesday, the Nampa Education Association abruptly proposed four furlough days for 2013-14 — abandoning its opposition to unpaid leave.

That’s still a far cry from the district’s proposal: 14 furlough days that would reduce $2.6 million from the district’s shortfall. But district negotiators said they would be willing to reduce furloughs to 11 or 12 days, if the union is willing to agree to some cost savings on health insurance.

Union negotiators haven’t discussed that option. At least not yet.

“We’ll see,” NEA President Mandy Simpson said after a three-hour negotiating session Wednesday evening. “That’s what negotiation is all about.”

The union also budged on one other point, abandoning a proposal for a 1.67 percent pay raise. This would have cost about $550,000, and was a centerpiece of a union proposal that would have totaled $2 million in new salaries and benefits.

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With the district facing a $3 million shortfall for 2013-14, this was a nonstarter, said Amy White, an attorney negotiating on the district’s behalf.

“The board will not ratify the $2 million increase,” White said.

The two parties ended with some tentative agreements — or areas such as substitute teachers and extended leaves of absence — and plans to resume negotiations on June 27.

By contrast, Wednesday’s session began where the previous talks had ended — with short tempers and pointed questions about the district’s financial health.

District negotiators argued, again, that Nampa faces a shortfall in 2013-14, even after cutting teaching and administrative positions, outsourcing custodial staff and closing an elementary school. NEA leaders again questioned whether the deficit exists, especially since district voters have approved two property tax levies in the past 10 months.

“Is there money somewhere that’s hiding?” said Simpson.

“No money is being hidden,” White said. “There’d be no purpose to hiding money.”