Ketchikan teachers have a new three-year contract, about a year and a half after their previous contract expired.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board voted unanimously Thursday to ratify a tentative agreement reached in mid-November.
The 6-0 vote did not include Board Vice President Kim Hodne, who resigned on Wednesday, citing his disagreement with the proposed contract.
Before Thursday’s vote, only two people spoke during public comment. Ketchikan Education Association President Meredith Lundamo thanked the board, and said she’s proud of everyone involved in the negotiated agreement.
“Ratification of this new contract will help us achieve our shared goal of attracting and retaining quality educators to KGBSD, which will ultimately enhance education for the 2,200 students in this district,” she said.
But, David Hashagen told the board that the terms of the new contract were not well publicized, and he would like the board to delay voting until its next regular meeting.
Following an executive session, Board Member Glen Thompson, participating telephonically, proposed delaying the vote. He said he agrees the public has not had enough time to weigh in.
Other board members disagreed. His motion to postpone failed 5-1.
Before voting on the contract, Thompson expressed reservations about the agreement. He said in the short term, the district can afford it. In the long term, though, he said, Ketchikan schools likely will need an increase in local funding.
“If that funding increase does not materialize, or if for any reason the local funding actually decreases, the terms of this agreement will cause someone to lose their job,” he said.
Thompson said he would have preferred a contract based on current funding levels, but others have decided potential layoffs are acceptable.
Board Member Diane Gubatayao agreed, in part.
“It’s going to be tight and it is a little scary. I agree with Glen, I do have that worry and that concern, too. If we have a shortfall, we’re going to have to make cuts,” she said. “It’s not going to be – I think we run a pretty lean budget as it is and something is going to have to give. I hope we don’t have to be in that position. But it’s entirely possible. But for tonight, for now, I think it’s a fair agreement.”
Board President Matt Eisenhower said the agreement improves teachers’ salaries and health insurance, but it’s not unreasonably generous.
He said the three-year contract will, at best, put Ketchikan teachers third in salary in the state; fourth in out-of-pocket expenses for insurance; and fifth in insurance premiums.
“And so anyone who said this is irresponsible or a sweetheart deal, I would lovingly encourage you to reconsider the facts as it relates to what a professional should be paid in our community,” he said.
The contract provides 2-percent annual raises for each year of the contract. It also cuts insurance premiums for teachers in half.
An analysis Eisenhower emailed on Friday provided cost estimates for the contract, including the cost of similar provisions for other district bargaining groups.
For the current fiscal year, the cost estimate is about $1.2 million more than currently budgeted. That includes retroactive pay for the previous school year. The district will ask the Ketchikan Gateway Borough for that additional funding.
The first year of the three-year contract covers last fiscal year.
For the final year of the contract – Fiscal Year 2020 – the district estimates it will need about $11.5 million in local funding. This year, the district received just shy of $9 million.
According to the analysis, the district has a reserve fund held by the borough containing about $4 million. The analysis states that those reserve funds could be used to pay new contract expenses without requiring additional taxes.