The Fairborn school board has canceled three union contracts, but both parties are confident a settlement can be reached before the start of school next month.
Treasurer Eric Beavers said the move will save the district “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” but at least one union leader said the move was “heavy-handed” after two months of negotiations.
The school board passed resolutions in late June to not continue to be bound by the terms of the district’s collective bargaining agreements after they expired on June 30. The action impacts about 500 employees in the Fairborn Education Association, Fairborn Classified Employees Association and Dayton Public Service Union.
District officials said the contracts were canceled to control costs by preventing any automatic pay and fringe benefits increases.
“I don’t blame any individual,” said Jeff Whited, FCEA president. “I want to feel like they’re trying to do the right thing. But with the levy not passing, I believe they were backed into a corner and kind of grasping.”
The district and unions have been in negotiations since May, and Beavers said this option has been discussed “many times.”
“We’re very surprised,” said Mandy Creekmur, FEA president. “It’s a pretty heavy-handed move by the board. We’ve been working diligently at the table to come to a mutual agreement. We’re aware of the financial situation and we’ve made concessions to alleviate costs.”
Creekmur said the teachers have been on a pay freeze for the last few years, saving the district “millions of dollars and we want to work towards a contract that will save the district more money.”
The concessions the FEA and FCEA have made at the table include pay freezes, increasing class sizes and adjusting insurance coverage to lower the cost for the district, Creekmur said.
“There have been many discussions on a variety of things, but there is no formalized tentative agreement (with the FEA and FCEA),” Beavers said.
Beavers said a tentative agreement has been reached with the DPSU, which includes bus drivers, custodians and food service workers. Richard Bourne, DPSU president, could not be reached for comment.
The next round of negotiations are scheduled for July 18. The first day for teachers is Aug. 19 and students return Aug. 21.
“That’s a definite goal (to come to an agreement before school starts),” Superintendent Dave Scarberry. “That’s the best thing for everybody. The sooner the better, and I’m sure they feel the same way. Things always get done in time. It’s a matter of working through some things and reaching an agreement.”
Creekmur and Whited also are hopeful that an agreement can be reached before the start of school.
“Our goal is to start school with the children,” Creekmur said. “We’re going to keep negotiating until we reach a settlement.”
The school board also approved an agreement to not increase the salary for administrators for the 2013-14 school year.
Fairborn has been in fiscal caution since Jan. 14, and it has a projected $1.5 million deficit for fiscal year 2014.
In May, an 11.7-mill emergency levy was rejected by a 2-to-1 margin. Voters should expect to see another levy on the November ballot, although the millage has not been set.