BP files for fact-finding regarding teachers’ contract
Students are set to return to classes in the Bethel Park School District on Sept. 3. Yet, the district and the Bethel Park Federation of Teachers, despite 21 negotiating sessions, have not reached an agreement on a new contract.
Teachers and other members of the BPFT, have worked under the terms of the previous contract that expired June 30, 2010. There has been only one strike that lasted from Oct. 25 until Dec. 5, 2010, when members of the union, including teachers, psychologists, guidance counselors and nurses, returned before state Act 88 kicked in. After the work stoppage, the district and the union participated in non-binding arbitration with both sides eventually rejecting the arbitration panel’s decision in July of 2011.
Just days before the start of the 2013-14 school year, the district informed the union Aug. 21 that it would file a request with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board for the appointment of a fact-finding panel. Negotiations are permitted to continue through the fact-finding process.
Previously, the union filed for fact-finding in March 2012, with that effort being rejected in May 2010, according to Vicki Flotta, director of public relations for the district.
Flotta said while both sides continue to negotiate, progress has been minimal. The main issues continue to be salaries and benefits.
Factors that have impacted the negotiations are the reduction of state funding over the past three years, Flotta said, adding state Act 1 has limitations on how much the districts are permitted to raise taxes, along with increases in health-care costs and the contributions districts make to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System.
Since the 2009-10 school year, health care costs for the district have risen from $8,871,615 to $9,956,197, and retirement contributions have increased from $866,218 to $3,156,195, an increase of $2,289,977, Flotta said.
The district has raised taxes the last four years to fund salaries as well as to pay for health care and pensions.
“The district is eager to get this resolved and we believe that fact-finding will help us to move off center and keep the momentum moving forward,” said Superintendent Nancy Aloi Rose. “It has always been our goal to have a resolution that is acceptable to both the teachers and the taxpayers. We believe fact-finding is the best path for the district to travel at this point in time.”