- March 1, 2023
Katie Hansen said in her 12 years as president of the Flagler County Educators Association, the school district had never pulled back on an agreement.
But she said the School Board did just that earlier this month, and members of the FCEA and the support staff union wore red in unity, filled up the board chambers and vented their displeasure at the May 17 School Board meeting.
At issue was a tentative agreement between the school district’s negotiating team and the unions regarding a one-time health insurance rebate.
The district’s insurance committee supported the proposal which would disburse a portion of the district’s insurance reserve fund to employees on the insurance plan.
According to Brown and Brown, which administers the district’s self-insured plan, the reserve fund is currently sitting at $4.6 million. Hansen, who is a member of the insurance committee as well as the union’s bargaining team, said Brown and Brown told her the district needs to maintain at least two months’ worth of claims in the reserve fund — about $1.2 million.
The rebate plan would refund district employees $100 for every year they have been insurance plan members. The insurance plan has been in effect for nine years, so the largest rebate would be $900.
With about 1,200 employees who pay the district insurance premiums, many of whom have been plan members for less than nine years, Hansen estimates that the rebates would total about $800,000, leaving $3.8 million in the reserve fund.
“The district’s team was singing our praises as a great way to put money back in the pockets of employees who take insurance,” Hansen said.
But in an executive session on May 9, the School Board nixed the plan.
“That’s the definition of bad faith bargaining,” Hansen said. “For them to go back on their word eats away at the relationship I’ve tried to build.”
In public comments at the end of the May 17 meeting, several FCEA members and members of the Flagler Educational Support Professional Association echoed that sentiment.
“I’m disappointed on your reneging,” Laura Gollon told the board. “I’m left to speculate on why you went back on your word. If you’re saving for a rainy day, let me inform you, it’s pouring.”
In their closing comments, board members said they are not allowed to discuss executive sessions because bargaining is ongoing.
“I appreciate everyone coming out tonight,” School Board member Jill Woolbright said. “I have paid into Flagler County insurance since 1991. Many of the things you have said tonight are true. I see you, I hear you and I feel you. We are limited in what we can say, because we are in negotiations. I do need to correct some misinformation. The School Board does not appoint the bargaining committee. The superintendent appoints the committee. We did not renege on the agreement, because we did not agree to anything.”
At a board workshop earlier in the day, Brown and Brown presented an insurance plan renewal overview. At the end of the discussion, the board scheduled another executive session for May 25.
“We learned about it today from Brown and Brown,” Woolbright said in her closing comments at the board meeting. “We will be negotiating, and I am confident there will a resolution and agreement that we’ll all be happy with.”
“That’s the definition of bad faith bargaining. For them to go back on their word eats away at the relationship I’ve tried to build.”
KATIE HANSEN, FCEA president
After the meeting, Hansen said it was unfortunate if the board learned about the numbers that day, because the insurance committee finalized the rebate proposal on March 23.
“That was ample time for this information to be brought up before the board, so they can make informed decisions. That’s not the employees’ fault. That’s an internal leadership issue,” Hansen said.
She said the FCEA and FESPA are scheduled go back into negotiations next week.
“They’re going to have executive sessions (May 25), so I hope it’s good news, and they’re willing to stand behind the agreement they signed,” she said.
One agreement the School Board did approve at the May 17 meeting, that would put have put more money in some teachers’ and staff members’ pockets, was rescinded by the unions before the end of the meeting. The memorandum of understanding would have doubled compensation for professional learning over the summer to $200 for six hours of in-service and $100 for three hours.
Hansen told the board the item was prematurely put on the agenda because the unions are currently in negotiation on a compensation package, and professional learning is part of that package.