MCA union, board close to a deal
MOUNT CARMEL - A vote among members of the Mount Carmel Area Education Association on a proposed contract with the school district is expected next week.
The teachers union ended its 18-day "working to the rule" policy Friday in light of the progress made, said Joe Varano, president of the teachers union.
Varano wouldn't get into contract details Friday, but said "positive progress" has been made in the last few days. He said there has been compromise on both sides.
"There's a lot of things that have to happen before a contract could be reached. It's possible it could be done soon, but it's not done right now," Varano said.
Board President Donna James confirmed that Varano's optimistic prediction was shared by all.
While she wouldn't disclose any of the new contract details, she said, "Both negotiation parties have agreed. Both need to vote. We might be able to have it settled by the next meeting (Nov. 21)."
A 2/3 majority of the union's 114 members is needed to ratify the proposal. It would also have to be ratified by the district's nine-member school board.
"Everybody, of course, wants this to be over," James said. "Teacher contracts are important, but we want to focus on other things, such as performance scores and improving education."
She said the union wanted to review some of the district's figures.
"When we presented numbers at a public meeting, they wanted to look at those numbers again," she said.
At a board meeting Sept. 19, district financial consultant Charles J. Mannello explained that, as of June 30, 2012, the district had a $3.7 million fund balance. He said the board later passed a resolution to place $2.5 million into an assigned fund balance that would be used to cover increased costs involved with health insurance and the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), and for future capital improvement projects.
Mannello said the remaining $1.2 million in the fund balance is needed for cash flow.
With projected cost increases for pension and health insurance over the next five years, the fund balance could be left with $149,592.51.
Negotiations between the two entities hit a stalemate in May when the school board accepted the report of a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board fact finder, but the union rejected it.
Tension flared considerable when the teachers picketing a contract negotiation meeting Sept. 18 and a regular meeting Sept. 19. By Oct. 7, the teachers established the "working to the rule" policy.
The teachers union has been working under an expired contract since June 2012.
The average teacher salary in the district in 2011-12 was $43,834, ranking Mount Carmel Area 489th out of 500 Pennsylvania school districts.
The median household income in the school district in 2011 was estimated at $34,188 by the U.S. Census Bureau.