The Hays USD 489 Board of Education and Hays-NEA bargaining committee have an agreement — almost.

Since there was a quorum of board members present — Lance Bickle, Luke Oborny, Sarah Rankin and Mandy Fox — when the two sides met Thursday evening to negotiate, it was an official board meeting.

Paul Adams joined the meeting at approximately 6:30 p.m.

Josh Waddell and Danielle Lang were absent.

There were several executive sessions during the negotiation session to allow the board and bargaining committee to discuss proposals.

The early retirement insurance program proved to be the final sticking point.

Union representatives wanted teachers to have one year in which to decide to retire and receive 10 years of health insurance with the district paying $575.81 per month toward the cost.

The time limit will step down from there beginning with two years to decide to take six years of ERIP, three years to decide whether to choose five years of the benefit, and four for four. School board representatives tentatively agreed. However, prospective retirees must notify the district by mid-February of the year they plan to retire.

“The pool of teachers is a little bit harder to fill these days, and if we have a little bit early lead time, we can start snagging people,” Adams said.

The notice could be waived by the superintendent in extenuating circumstances.

Those teachers who chose ERIP three years ago, but no longer qualify because of the negotiated changes and now choose to join the 403(b) plan that was offered as an alternative, will receive an additional 1-percent match from the district, 3 percent total, for a specified number of years. If the 403(b) plan doesn’t allow that, they might receive alternate compensation.

Severance pay was another key issue among the other issues being negotiated this year.

Negotiators finally agreed to a plan that allowed those with more than 100 days to keep them, and included steps based on years of service in the district.

Union representatives fought for two years of vertical movement on the salary scale, arguing teachers had been frozen for several years.

Kathy Wagoner, bargaining committee co-chairwoman, said she is concerned about retaining teachers if they don’t get a raise.

“I think we’re very fair. We have given a lot,” Wagoner said.

“We don’t have the money to do that,” Bickle said.

The bargaining committee finally agreed to horizontal movement on the salary scale for eligible certified staff.

There was no agreement to add days to the school calendar.

BOE Attorney Bill Jeter will prepare a tentative agreement, and each negotiating side will have an opportunity to look it over before a final meeting.

“We need one more meeting where we talk about all the agreements,” Wagoner said.

After the agreement is finalized, the bargaining unit, which includes all certified staff, must ratify it and the school board vote to approve it.