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Arbitration hearing held on Milton dispute

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
June 25, 2010
— The Milton School District and the districtís teachers union brought separate proposals Thursday to an arbitration hearing over stalled 2009-2011 contract negotiations.

The hearing has been pending since January, when the district filed for arbitration amid a breakdown in contract talks over teacher insurance coverage.


The hearing was at Milton High School library, and ran from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Thursday.


The district has proposed the teachers union change health insurance carriers from the Wisconsin Education Association Trust to a Dean-Mercy plan, arguing the switch would save $1 million.


The union seeks to keep its current plan, arguing the change would create higher out-of-pocket costs for teachers, outstripping any pay increase the district is offering its teachers.


At the hearing, both sides submitted those proposals to a state-appointed arbitrator, with each side offering multiple witnesses for supporting testimony.


According to Milton teachers union President Shelly Kress, other testimony at the hearing revolved around cost comparisons of salaries, benefits, and the local economic climate at other school districts in the region.


Kress said about 15 union members attended the hearing Thursday, along with the unionís lawyer.


She said the districtís lawyer was at the meeting, along with Superintendent Bernie Nikolay and outgoing Business Manager Dianne Meyer, but that none of the school board members in the bargaining group that had originally filed for arbitration attended the hearing.


Nikolay was unavailable for comment Thursday.


Kress said the arbitrator indicated Thursday that a decision could be rendered as early as mid-October.


The decision would uphold either the districtís proposal or the unionís.


Meanwhile on Tuesday, the district offered the union a separate settlement proposal.


Kress said the union had been focused on the hearing Thursday and had not considered the offer, but she said the unionís negotiating team would meet in early July to consider it.


Kress didnít give specifics of the offer, but she said the settlement is based on a three-year contract and it proposes a switch to a Dean-Mercy health care plan.


She said district has given the union a July 12 deadline to decide on the offer.



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