By Audrey Bailey
After months of failing to reach a contract agreement, Carmel Clay Schools and its teachers presented their cases to an appointed fact finder at a hearing Dec. 11. The fact finder will consider the arguments and select one party’s last best offer to be the new collective bargaining agreement.
This is the third time in four years that contract negotiations have gone before a fact finder, the final step in a collective bargaining process established by state law. The fact finder sided with the school district in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.
At the hearing, both sides presented proposals on pay and benefits. The hearing became necessary because the parties were unable to reach a tentative agreement by the September deadline.
The district said the two sides previously reached a tentative agreement that provided pay increases of more than $1,800 per teacher on average, but the Carmel Clay Educators Association failed to ratify the agreement. Now – to comply with state law and avoid deficit financing – the district said it must reduce the amount it offered by an average of $902 per teacher.
“Prior to going into fact finding, we did have some latitude, really total latitude I suppose, to not only use the current year revenue but to also use a portion of our beginning, operating or cash balance,” said Roger McMichael, associate superintendent for business affairs, during the hearing.
If the fact finder selects the district’s proposal, teachers would be looking at a .75 percent decrease in salary compared to last year. When adding in a decrease in state performance bonus, the net reduction is expected to be around 1.36 percent.
Both sides agree that the district is likely to collect more than $5 million in funds from the state, the referendum and various fees in the upcoming school year compared to the current one, said Brian Lyday, a fifth grade teacher and CCEA president.
“The aggregate cost of the association’s proposal is about $2.5 or $2.6 million,” Lyday said. “We’re (asking for) about half of the money that has been given this year, which leaves about $2.5 million. So, what they’re saying is, they’re spending $3 million somewhere else.”
The fact finder has 30 days to make a decision, which may be appealed to the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board.