Some employees in the West Shore School District are concerned they’ll lose their jobs as they continue negotiations with district leaders on a contract set to expire at the end of the month.
Bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians and maintenance staff are working to come up with a new arrangement with the district as it grapples with budget cuts.
“We’re willing to sit down at that table and negotiate, but we also want to see that it’s done throughout the district,” said Penny Fink, who’s been driving school buses for the district for 23 years.
The district includes portions of Cumberland and York counties.
Fink says employees have been meeting with the district about the contract for about six months. In the process, she says the district has proposed requiring those employees to pay thousands of dollars per year for health coverage for family members that they’re not paying now, among other concessions.
Fink says administrators are not making similar concessions.
“Pretty much what they said is, you take this proposal or we’re going to contract you out,” said Fink. “There’s no guarantee that we would be re-hired by those companies at all.”
District leaders declined to comment on the negotiations. However, one person involved in them pointed out the district, like many others, is facing wide-ranging financial challenges.
The Board of School Directors voted to close Lemoyne Middle School at the end of this academic year. District leaders also voted to raise property taxes. There have been some administrative cuts through attrition.
One of the biggest challenges for school districts in the coming years is the increase in pension contributions. According to the Public School Employees Retirement System, in the current year employers contribute 12.93 percent of payroll. The commonwealth reimburses districts half the amount for employees hired before June 30, 1994. For employees hired after that date, districts get reimbursed based on a statutory formula but not less than one-half.
In the next school year, that contribution increases to 16.93 percent of payroll. And in the 2016-2017 school year, that will go up to 28.3 percent of payroll.
For more information from PSERS, click here.
“While the WSSD is threatening these low paid hard working employees they are leaving alone the 34 administrative employees whose combined salary including pension and benefits is $401,472 per year more than the combined annual cost for the 141 custodians and bus drivers,” AFSCME District Council 89 Director Michael Fox said in a news release.
Fink said she doubts the negotiations will be resolved by the end of the month, but they’ll continue throughout the summer.