Short tempers — and no deal — in Nampa

Nampa teachers will receive contracts next week imposing 14 unpaid furlough days, after a heated and emotional negotiating session Friday morning ended without an agreement.

The Nampa School Board voted unanimously to send out the contracts, less than two hours after the district and union negotiators left the bargaining table — for now.

“You have wasted my time. You did not come to this table to negotiate,” Nampa Education Association President Mandy Simpson said Friday morning, after district officials rejected the union’s latest contract offer. “We came here to work, we came here to move, and make an agreement on something.”

Administrators and the NEA agreed to meet again July 18 and July 24. But the two sides remain more than $1.5 million apart on pay and benefits issues.

And that chasm remains, even though the two sides actually wound up on the same page on furlough days.

A ‘big jump’ on furloughs

Friday morning’s bargaining session began with the NEA making what Simpson called “a big jump.” The union recommended 14 furlough days, agreeing to the linchpin of the district’s plan to erase a projected $3 million 2013-14 shortfall.

Indeed, on June 13, an NEA counteroffer included no furlough days, as union negotiators questioned the need to cut more money from the district budget. The NEA budged a week later, proposing four furlough days and dropping a proposal for an across-the-board pay raise.

Interim Superintendent Pete Koehler said the furlough proposal — which would take a $2.6 million bite from staff salaries — represented a “tremendous step forward.”

A lingering budget gap

Still, the district rejected the union’s counteroffer, saying it would still leave Nampa $1.85 million in the red.

The sticking points:

  • The union still wants pay raises, tied to teacher experience, costing some $1.2 million.
  • Teachers who would not be eligible for raises  — more than 250 educators overall — would receive a 1.67 percent bonus. The bonuses would cost about $200,000.
  • The union rejected any changes in benefits — such as making life insurance and long- and short-term disability into voluntary programs. The district says these moves would cut $444,000 from the shortfall.

The negotiating session ended with the union yielding no ground on pay raises, bonuses and short-term disability.

What’s next?

School boards are required to issue teacher contracts on July 1 — with or without an agreement in place.

And that’s what the Nampa board voted to do Friday afternoon. The contracts will impose the 14 furlough days, but make no changes in employee benefits. This would allow district and union leaders to discuss life insurance and disability issues in future bargaining sessions.

The parties can revisit raises and bonuses as well, although next week’s contracts freeze pay. Koehler, however, was pessimistic about the prospects. “There is no money,” he said after the School Board meeting.

While contract talks will continue, as Koehler had urged, emotions were raw and tempers short at the end of Friday’s bargaining session. Simpson declined to talk to reporters, saying she was too upset to comment. “I’ve got to get out of here right now.”

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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