By CRISTINA JANNEY
The Hays USD 489 school board will talk about opting out of the PEERA program and ending negotiations with the custodian’s Union at its meeting Monday.
SEIU (Service Employees International Union) covers 28 staff members of the about 500 people employed by the Hays school district. Nineteen of those staff members pay dues and are a part of the union.
Although the city of Hays and Ellis County both voted in December to opt out of PEERA (Public Employer-Employee Relations Act), the addition of the PEERA item to Monday’s school board agenda has nothing to do with the actions of those other governing bodies.
Related story: Ellis County Commission votes to end union negotiations
Superintendent John Thissen said there had been some irritation expressed by certain board members when SEIU took action last year that stalled the district’s move from a state insurance plan administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield to a non-state plan administered by Aetna.
The school board hoped the move would save the district money and give it more flexibility in negotiating future insurance contracts.
SEIU had a provision in its contract that specifically required the district to provide the state plan and sent a letter to the district saying if it voted to leave Blue Cross Blue Shield the district could open itself up to future lawsuits. The district was able to negotiate an agreement with SEIU, and the district moved its insurance contract to Aetna.
However, the board asked the administration to revisit the union issue after the first of the year.
The district administration has not made a recommendation on the PEERA issue. Thissen said the issue would be open for discussion Monday and is not expected to be voted on. He noted that three new board members have come onto the board since the insurance issue was discussed last year, including Greg Schwartz, who was appointed in the fall and Sophia Young and Mike Walker, who were elected in November. Monday night will be their first official meeting as board members.
Esau Freeman, SEIU representative, released the following statement Friday: “The custodians of USD 489 value their collective bargaining rights and are hopeful that the school board will remain under PEERA. We appreciate that we were able to come to a fair and equitable agreement this year. We also understand that negotiations can be frustrating at times; however, collective bargaining aids in securing harmony in the workplace and allows employees to focus on their work rather than their grievances.”
Any action the district would take on PEERA would not affect teacher negotiations. The district would still be legally required to negotiate with the Hays NEA.
High school HVAC upgrades
The board is set to vote on a proposal to spend $778,000 on the first phase of improvements to the HVAC system at Hays High School. The whole high school HVAC project is estimated to cost $4 million to $5 million. The district should have enough money in its capital outlay fund to pay for this first phase of the project.
The work will add roof-top units for the main gym, auxiliary gym and wrestling room. The program will also improve controls for other parts of the high school. The district would like to complete construction on the project this summer.
Thissen said these areas were chosen because they are the areas that are most used by the district during the summer.
The board will also continue to discuss a $78.5 million bond issue that failed in November. The bond was the second to fail in the last two years.
In other business, the school board will:
• Vote on the audit report
• Hear a special education update