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11-16-04 Celina school board explains contract offer

By Janie Southard
jsouthard@dailystandard.com

  Celina City Schools board of education broke its agreement to not talk about contract negotiations and put the cards on the table at the Monday night meeting.
About 200 members of the Celina Education Association and Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 457 rallied in the old Big Bear parking lot for a march of several blocks to the Celina board of education meeting Monday evening. Both organizations have been working without a contract for several months and are currently in negotiation with the board, facilitated by a federal mediator. Their number increased to almost 300 at the meeting site. In foreground, CEA Vice President Kathy Hart, Local 457 President Carol Henderson and CEA President Phil Long give encouragement to the membership.<br>dailystandard.com
  "We want people to know where the board is coming from. An awful lot of rumor is floating around. I've had lots of comments from people calling with misinformation," board member Ken Fetters said following the meeting.
  The board has been struggling through contract negotiations with the teachers and classified staff (custodians, bus drivers, etc.) for several months and both sides had agreed to not talk publicly about negotiations. The teachers and classified staff have approved intents to strikes if negotiations fail.
  The 300 or so teachers in attendance watched silently as board members Tom Rable and Matt Gilmore projected the board's current proposal on a large screen at the front of the high school lecture hall for the public.
  The offer to teachers and classified workers is as follows:   A two-year agreement to include a 2 percent increase in pay this school year, retroactive to the expiration of the previous contract.
   A 2.25 percent increase on base pay in the 2005-06 school year.
   A PPO insurance program with monthly employee contributions of $50 per family, $25 per single for the first year, and $100 family, $50 single for the second year.
  That package was developed by the board using state requirements for the length of contract, Bureau of Labor Statistics for the wage increase and bench marking of local schools for the insurance premiums, according to Rable, who actually voiced the information as Gilmore placed the transparencies on the screen.
  As to length of contract, Rable said the board's financial projections can only support a two-year contract and Ohio law requires the district to certify its ability to fund all operations.
  Treasurer Mike Marbaugh has projected a deficit of more than $3 million in the third year of the five-year financial forecast.
  "Just recently a Fairborn school got into trouble because its budget forecast showed it would not have funds for its teachers' contract. That may void their current three-year contract," Rable added.
  As to the wage increase, Rable cited cost of living comparisons from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The board's proposed two-year average is an increase of 2.125 percent, which surpasses the Bureau of Labor's 1.4 percent index for Midwest urban areas with less than 50,000 population.
The insurance proposal is based on a survey of current insurance plans of 18 area schools, which showed the Celina district is the only one not participating in a PPO plan.
"The board proposal for year one shows an average $50 employee contribution for family coverage. The same coverage averages $56 per month at the bench mark group," Rable said.
In summation, Rable read "the board's position since the beginning of negotiations and its ongoing pursuit of fiscal responsibility has reflected bench marking date, district projected deficits in the five-year forecasts and the uncertainty in federal and state revenue sources."
  Information provided to The Daily Standard by a confidential source showed the teachers are asking for a three-year contract with a 2.75 increase in year one, a 3.25 percent increase in year two, and a 3.50 increase in year three. Also, the retroactive pay requested would fall back to the end of the contract year (Aug. 31).
  During the meeting, board member Fetters solicited information from Marbaugh to indicate:
   76.4 percent of Celina teachers have a master's or higher degree.
   More than 40 teachers are eligible for retirement.
   The majority of the district's teacher payroll expense is in the top end.
   The master's plus 30-year teachers in Celina are earning $79,391 per year including benefits.
   Bachelor's degree only teachers in Celina are earning $46,636 per year including benefits.
  "This is great for us to have so many highly qualified teachers, but it hurts the district pocketbook ... We prefer the Cadillac, but we have a Ford budget," Fetters said.
  CEA President Phil Long had only one comment following the meeting and it was that he intends to abide by the agreement that neither side would make public the details of the contract proposals.
  "I thought we had all agreed to that," he said.
  The next negotiating session is set for Nov. 30.

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