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Clark County schools’ bonus offer in limbo after arbitration decision

The Clark County School District is weighing its options after an offer of a one-time 3 percent payment to all five employee bargaining groups was undercut by a District Court decision to uphold a $51.5 million arbitration award to teachers.

The district doesn’t have enough money set aside to pay the increased salary and health care benefits for teachers and fund the offer to all employees, Superintendent Jesus Jara clarified in a meeting with the Review-Journal editorial board on Tuesday. He said the district’s legal team is reviewing the decision handed down on Friday, after which the leadership will decide whether to appeal.

Jara said the offer of a one-time payment was an effort to put something on the table that would bring all bargaining units together, using money set aside during budget cuts approved in June to address the district’s $68 million deficit. The payment — essentially a bonus that would not change current salary schedules — would cost roughly $50 million, or almost the same amount as the arbitrator’s award.

“The (School) Board had authorized the superintendent and the staff to put something out to try to say, ‘We all know there’s challenges,’” Jara said. “And we wanted to improve the morale as we were going into the school year.”

The offer — initially made last month — was not an attempt to undermine teachers and was not meant to pit employee groups against one another, he said.

The district is still waiting for responses to the offer from all of the employee groups, which represent teachers, administrators, support staff, police officers and police administrators.

But at least two of the groups — the unions representing district police officers and administrators — indicated they aren’t interested at this time.

Matt Caldwell, president of the Police Officer’s Association of CCSD, said the offer is not a good deal for the roughly 144 officers still in negotiations over a 2017-18 contract. Step and cost-of-living increases are more valuable than a one-time payment, he said.

“We’re not greedy, we’re just asking for a living wage that’s comparable with other agencies so we don’t lose membership,” he said. “We don’t want to lose officers.”

Roberto Morales, head of the eight-member police administrators union, said the group is focused first on working out its first contract with the district.

Morales said that while the police administrators’ pay scale is roughly comparable to that of school administrators, its members did not share in a raise awarded to school administrators last year. That’s why the group needs its own contract with its own pay scale, he said.

“Honestly in all fairness I can’t present this 3-percent bonus pay to my membership when the district hasn’t really addressed what’s at the table for us,” he said.

The Education Support Employees Association, which represents support staff, declined to comment on whether it would accept the district’s offer.

The Clark County Education Association did not respond to requests for comment this week.

The Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees could not immediately be reached for comment.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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