APS, AEA receives fact finding report

ALPENA – Alpena Public Schools and the Alpena Education Association received the results of state fact finder Frances Hill’s hearing evaluation in December. Hill agreed with some items discussed by the AEA, but agreed with APS keeping self-funded insurance at the level proposed by the district.

Hill said she would not hesitate to recommend a permanent 10 percent pay cut for teachers if convinced the cut would resolve the structural deficit of the district. She added that a salary reduction may prove to be a short-term solution, citing the most unpredictable source of income for the district being the amount of per pupil aid or foundation allowance the district will receive from the state in the future, which has been reduced in recent years to such a degree that it has helped to precipitate the current crisis.

Hill made the recommendation that the district return the high school to semesters with a six hour schedule, maintain self-funded insurance at the level proposed by the district. Hill also recommended a 5.5 percent salary reduction for teachers, and that steps be frozen for 2013-14, and 2014-15, and to restore steps with a wage reopener for the third year salary in 2015-16. With a 5.5 percent wage reduction, the district may have to implement a 10-person staff reduction, which the district already has indicated reluctance in having to reduce the staff numbers.

“We understand the financial crisis the district is in,” AEA President Erin Kieliszewski said. “We have tried to help them with numerous proposals, but the district hasn’t accepted any of them. Their only solution is to drastically reduce salaries.”

Hill referred to specific proposals from the AEA that were rejected as unfortunate missed opportunities, and said they could have provided a viable way of reducing the budget deficit.

“We’re pleased that the fact finder recognized our attempts to work with the district,” MEA UniServ Director Deb Larson said. “Even though the fact-finding report is not binding on either party, we hope the district will follow the fact finders recommendations and see the reasonableness of our proposals.”

Superintendent Brent Holcomb said the board is reviewing the report and the district has no comment at this time.

APS teachers have been working without a contract since Aug. 31, 2013.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.