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Medford teachers, district remain $12 million apart in negotiations

Teachers' union and Medford School District officials exchanged public proposals today in a state-mediated negotiations session, but remain more than $12 million apart, Superintendent Phil Long said late this afternoon.

"At this point the key sticking points for the (Medford Education Association) are compensation, insurance and retirement benefits," Long said.

The bargaining teams have less than 13 hours to resolve these issues or teachers will strike at 6 a.m. Thursday. The teams met in different rooms at the district offices, and two state mediators relayed information from one group to the next.

The two sides swapped confidential proposals Tuesday, and the district countered the MEA's most recent offer with a confidential counterproposal this morning. Around 2:30 p.m., the MEA came back with a public proposal, which the district responded with its own public proposal at 3:30 p.m.

"The mediator told us we needed to look at anything else we could put on the table and that we needed to do that today," Long said.

The district came up with two different options in its last proposal.

Under the first option, the district would give teachers a salary increase of 10 percent in the first year. This increase includes a 1.9 percent cost-of-living raise, an additional 6 percent to cover the employee's PERS contributions and a 2.1 percent raise to compensate teachers for the longer school year. The teachers would receive a 1 percent raise in the second year of the contract and a 2 percent raise in the third year.

District officials explained that each percent costs the district between $380,000 and $400,000.

The district also would maintain its current health insurance offer of a $1,050 monthly cap. But it would give employees hired after 2006 two choices regarding early retirement benefits. Teachers could choose to accept a lump sum of $1,500 for each year of service through October 2013 or accept $250 a month after they retire and until they receive Medicare.

The district's second option provided a 3 percent raise in the third year but asked teachers to pay a larger percentage of their insurance premiums in the second and third year of the contract.

Negotiations continue this evening.

— Teresa Thomas

See collected coverage of the labor dispute at www.mailtribune.com/medfordstrike.