The understatement of the month might have to go to Brainerd School Superintendent Steve Razidlo who commented recently on the status of contract negotiations with the district's eight union groups.
"It's a tough negotiations climate now," he said.
Tough, indeed. Combine an uncertain revenue picture with growing demands on resources and a stagnant economy and one has a recipe for what could be unyielding negotiation stances.
The Brainerd School Board is charged with the task of providing district students with a quality education with limited funds and a taxpayer base that is feeling the pinch. Their task is not an enviable one.
We don't usually offer negotiating advice to the school board but we'll repeat our earlier call for a wage package that calls for no pay hike this contract - for teachers, for administrators or for staff. Too many district residents have been laid off or had their wages frozen or even reduced to justify a wage hike for school district employees in this contract.
While we're confident the U.S. economy will eventually bounce back, the immediate future - particularly for our state government - is bleak. Yet another state budget shortfall that will be measured in billions of dollars is being predicted.
The school district's step increases for teachers - annual increases for each year a teacher is employed up to 18 years - should also be abandoned this year. The step increases can equal an approximate 2 percent wage increase.
While there are justifiable reasons that labor negotiations are conducted in closed session, district residents still have every right to let board members and school district employees know their opinions about the negotiations.
Transparency can go a long way to increase the trust level between the school district and the larger community. If there are pressing reasons why a pay hike or step increase is justifiable this should be communicated to district residents now rather than after the deal is done.
If the school board and the unions that serve the district can reach an accord with no pay hikes and no step increases during this difficult time, it will go a long way to increasing the public's faith in a system that is likely going to need public support in the future in order to continue providing a first-rate education.
This is the year to hold the line on district salaries.
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