Budget questions stall negotiations

ALMA, Mich. - Uncertainty about state funding is one reason for lengthy teacher contract negotiations in Alma and Shepherd, school officials in each district told the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

In Alma, the school board has proposed a budget that includes no salary increases for the coming year, but teachers have not agreed to a freeze, the Sun reported. Teachers there previously agreed to switch to a lower-cost health insurance plan and the district should "show a little reciprocity," union negotiator Linda Goward told the Sun.

In Shepherd, the key disagreement is whether to continue to purchase health insurance through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association, or to switch to another provider, Superintendent Terry Baker told the Sun. Baker said the rest of the Shepherd staff is enrolled in a lower-cost health plan.

Officials in each district told the Sun that uncertainty over per-pupil funding from the state makes it difficult to predict revenue. At this point, the state Senate has proposed a $110-per-pupil reduction, Alma Superintendent Don Pavlik told the Sun.

Morning Sun, "Teacher contract talks go on in Alma, Shepherd," July 7, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Health insurance: Reformed but not resolved," Sept. 16, 2008