No deal, yet, on Nampa contract

Nampa School District officials and the local teachers’ union still have no deal on the two big-ticket items on the bargaining table: unpaid furlough days and benefits cuts designed to erase a $3 million shortfall.

Both sides agreed to sleep on the proposals and counterproposals — and will meet again Friday morning.

The fact that Thursday’s two-hour bargaining session came and went without a deal is not necessarily a surprise. The two sides had already agreed to meet Thursday and Friday. But the clock is ticking. Existing master agreements — in Nampa and other Idaho school districts — expire on June 30.

In contrast to previous negotiating sessions — which have been punctuated by tense exchanges over the depth of the district’s financial crisis — Thursday’s session was cordial but candid.

Nampa Education Association President Mandy Simpson acknowledged the need to make cuts and erase the district’s shortfall, she balked at a plan that combines furloughs and out-of-pocket costs for employee benefits.

“There’s a hit in every direction for employees,” she said.

“You’ve defined it well,” said Amy White, an attorney negotiating on the district’s behalf. “It’s a hit in every direction.”

Acting superintendent Pete Koehler said the district isn’t driving a hard bargain because it wants to bank away money or shortchange employees.

“It’s being done because I’m trying to keep this district alive,” he said. “I understand the implications of this very, very deeply.”

The two sides remain several days apart on furloughs.

The district has proposed 14 furlough days, which would erase $2.6 million of the shortfall. However, the district has also proposed two options that would pass on some benefits costs to employees, eliminating two or three furlough days.

Last week, the NEA proposed four furlough days.

Friday figures to be a busy — and potentially pivotal — day of negotiations.

District and union representatives are scheduled to meet from 9 to 11 a.m. The Nampa School Board has scheduled a 12:30 p.m. meeting to consider 2013-14 contracts.

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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