Board approves teacher contracts
The Fairfield school board approved Monday a two-year master contract with a total package increase for certified staff of 3.5 percent for school year 2014-15 and a 3.7 percent increase the second year, as agreed upon by district and the Fairfield Community Education Association.
“It’s another two-year package, which is a good deal for the district and for the teachers,” said Superintendent Art Sathoff.
The current teachers’ master contract, which expires June 30, was the first two-year contract negotiated that anyone could remember.
The board also approved the 2014-15 annual budget of $40.4 million, which is $1.5 million less than the district budget spent this year.
The school district levy rate, which property owners pay on property taxes, will be $13.99 per $1,000 valuation, a 35-cent reduction from the current school district levy rate of $14.34.
“We also will be saving taxpayers $450,000 by levying a tax now to place funds in escrow and invest those funds to pay off a general obligation bond early, saving interest costs down the road,” said Kim Sheets, district business manager.
Student enrollment is a large factor in Iowa schools’ budgets. Fairfield school district had a 34.38 full-time equivalent student drop in enrollment this school year from the previous year. Decimal places are used in student counts because some students are weighted more than one whole student, depending on special needs ratings.
Contract negotiations smooth
The master contract did not have a great deal of changes, said Sathoff.
Longevity pay was increased as: teachers with a master’s degree plus 15 years experience earn an additional $225 per year; master’s degree plus 30 years earns an additional $300 per year; and master’s degree plus 45 years earn an additional $350 per year.
A few of the changes include allowing employees to carry over one unused day of personal leave per year, for a maximum of three personal days per year.
“It will still be a maximum of four personal days over two years,” said Sathoff.
Language was added to the employee work year section, clarifying that staff would be expected to remain at work following heat-related early dismissals.
“Professional development work can be carried on in air-conditioned spaces,” said Sathoff. “The inclement weather clause about staff leaving early was written a long time ago about blizzards. As more and more buildings become air-conditioned in the district, early heat dismissals will not be needed.”
Language about spring break was changed from “five days beginning on Monday following the end of third quarter,” to “five consecutive working days beginning in the month of March.”
“A lot of schools will settle higher than we did,” said Sathoff. “But I think the school board committee and the teachers’ committee came out of negotiations feeling good about the agreement.”
Sathoff invited anyone who worked on negotiations to comment about the process.
“Both sides got to communicate freely,” said board member Phil Miller.
Sathoff agreed the negotiations remained positive.
“It’s nice to know the negotiations can be done in-house and we can get along,” said board President Jennifer Anderson.
Fairfield High School teacher Fred Hucke said it was his first time to serve on the FCEA negotiations team.
“By necessity it can be adversarial,” said Hucke. “It was nice that nobody got grouchy during the process.”
District auxiliary services director Fred McElwee said each negotiating session showed movement.
“It was a continually progressing and moving forward,” he said.
In other business Monday, the board:
• Approved extending the contract with Kohl Wholesale as the district’s primary food and food related products for the nutrition program for 2014-15.
“Last year Fairfield joined with Cardinal, Davis County and Van Buren school districts to implement a food co-op for our nutrition program,” said McElwee. “The co-op is responsible for bidding and each district independently approved Kohl Wholesale as the primary vendor. The contract can be renewed for up to five years.
“As Kohls has been responsive and provided quality service, I recommend extending the contract for one year,” McElwee told the board. “All the other district intend to.”
He said Kohls also was the only bidder last year when bids were sent out.
Approving the contract now, ensures a primary vendor in place for the summer food service program.
“We’ve already benefited from the [Fairfield’s Farm-to-School] greenhouse, with pea sprouts and greens added to school menus,” said McElwee. “We plan to continue serving fresh produce from the greenhouse and freeze some this summer.”
• Approved the purchase of a 2015 Chevrolet Suburban from local vendor Fesler Auto Mall, at $35,197.75.
One other bid was received, from Karl Chevrolet in Ankeny, for $34,974, or $223.75 less than Fesler’s quote.
“The pricing is very close, and factoring in the costs to pick up the vehicle in Ankeny, I recommend purchasing from our local business,” McElwee said.
• Approved the district’s participation in Jefferson County Multi-Jurisdiction Hazard Mitigation Plan of 2015.
• Approved a resolution of support for Fairfield Park and Recreation Department.
“This isn’t saying we’re donating to the pool and gym project,” said Sathoff. “We have a long-standing partnership with park and rec and are offering a resolution of support.”
The district’s resolution is to help the pool and gym committee receive grant money.
• Accepted the proposal from Nolte, Cornman & Johnson P.C. in Newton, for audit services to the district for the next three years, at $7,100 for the year ending June 30; $7,600 for the year ending June 30, 2015; and $8,100 for the year ending June 30, 2016.
“I sent out seven requests for bids and received two responses,” said Sheets.
The other bid was from Bohnsack & Frommelt of Taylor Ridge, Ill., and nearly twice as expensive.
Nolte, Cornman & Johnson contract with the majority of Iowa school districts to perform annual audits, and Fairfield has used the firm for several years.
• Phil Miller, elected to the school board April 1 in a special election, was sworn in with the oath of office.
The school board meets again at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Administration/Curriculum/Technology Center for a public hearing about re-bidding three of 10 packages that came in higher than budget for the FHS renovation/addition.
The project was broken down into 10 bid packages, including general construction, masonry, roofing, glass and glazing, acoustical ceilings, tiling and flooring, elevator, plumbing and air handling, test and balance, and electrical.
When all the bids were reviewed, the total was $2 million over-budget.
The board approved rejecting and re-bidding the general contractor package, masonry, and the tiling and flooring bids. Each of these three bid packages had only one bid sent to the school district.