Perry school board, teachers union open contract negotiations

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Meeting Thursday afternoon to exchange opening contract proposals were, from left, PCSD Business Manager Kent Bultman, PCSD School Board member Casey Baldwin, Perry Education Association negotiators Trista Cohea, Curt Cornelius, President Jenn Nelson, Mandy Myers and Mari Butler Abry, PCSD Superintendent Clark Wicks and PCSD School Board member Jim Lutmer.

With the current three-year contract between the Perry Community School District (PCSD) and the Perry Education Association (PEA) in place until 2022, representatives of the school board and the teachers union met Thursday afternoon to exchange opening proposals for base salary for the 2021 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The PEA negotiating team included PEA President Jenn Nelson and members Trista Cohea, Curt Cornelius, Mandy Myers and Mari Butler Abry. PEA team member Chad Morman was absent.

The PCSD was represented by Superintendent Clark Wicks, Business Manager Kent Bultman and Perry School Board members Casey Baldwin and Jim Lutmer.

Under Iowa’s collective-bargaining law, public employee unions can negotiate only base salary. Other terms of teacher employment, such as step and lane movements, insurance and IPERS, are no longer open to negotiation.

The PEA proposed a $750 base salary increase for fiscal year 2021, from $32,211 to $32,961. The total package — salary plus non-negotiable items — would amount to $425,344, an increase of 3.96% over the current package.

The union described their proposal as “a fair request because the district will be receiving $305,087 in new money from the state,” according to the 2.3% increase in education funding approved last week by the Iowa legislature.

“We need to increase our base pay to remain competitive with neighboring districts when hiring new staff,” the union proposal said.

Speaking on behalf of the PCSD School Board, Wicks offered the teachers two options: a one-year contract with a $300 wage increase and a two-year option with a $250 raise each year.

The one-year option would produce a total package increase of 2.85% or $306,505, and the two-year offer would yield a total package increase of 2.73% or $293,292.

Wicks noted the district is facing a 5.51% increase in health insurance premiums for fiscal year 2021, a cost increase of $2.3 million to the district.

He said the district’s “beliefs and values for the negotiation process” include sustainability, efficiency and the attraction and retention of high-quality teachers.

“The district has an interest in providing a competitive teacher’s package that allows the district to retain and recruit high quality teachers,” Wicks said, “and at the same time keeping the district sustainable and being mindful of the tax rates.”

Salary negotiations will continue March 26 in a closed session.

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