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No Settlement Reached After Teacher Contract Mediation Session

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Burlington School Board members voted to adopt a $7M budget for FY18 and put forth a deferred maintenance bond, during a meeting at Hunt Middle School on Jan. 10.
Burlington School Board members voted to adopt a $7M budget for FY18 and put forth a deferred maintenance bond, during a meeting at Hunt Middle School on Jan. 10. | Photo: Alexandre Silberman/Register

The Burlington Education Association (BEA) and the Burlington School Board have yet to reach a settlement after a seven hour mediation session on Monday, according to a statement from the district.

The board declared impasse on March 16 after early talks proved unsuccessful. Board Chair Mark Porter said in a statement that mediation is needed to bridge the gap between the two salary proposals.

The board is offering a 1.75 percent increase for fiscal year 2018 and 2.0 percent in fiscal year 2019. The board’s proposal would result in an average salary increase of $1,241 in the first year, and $1,469 in the second year, according to the district.

The BEA is seeking a 5.28 percent increase in one year, which equates to an average increase of $3,745, the district wrote in the statement.

The district said that significant differences remain around the areas of operational changes and health insurance benefits.

BEA President Fran Brock said that the union is seeking a competitive compensation package, and cited healthcare are a key issue due to changing premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

“If Burlington’s teachers are out of step with the region in terms of both salary and healthcare coverage, more teachers will leave the district, and the district will have a more difficult time finding and hiring quality teachers,” Brock wrote in an email. “It’s basic economics: if the economic and working condition provisions in the teachers’ contract further diminish the city’s ability to keep and attract the best teachers, Burlington’s students will suffer and so with the community.”

Both sides are required to submit arguments to a neutral fact-finder by June 7, who will issue a non-binding report. A similar fact-finding process proved unsuccessful in leading to a deal last fall, when the two parties barely avoided a strike through a last-ditch negotiation session.

Michael Ryan, who has served as a mediator, will have 30 days to issue a report after receiving the arguments.

“While we made limited progress today, we look forward to a successful conclusion to negotiations in a timely manner, and prior to the start of the next school year,” Anne Judson, a member of the board’s negotiations committee, said in a statement.

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