Negotiators for the 2019-20 Hays USD 489 teacher contracts, unable to come to an agreement on benefits, will now meet with an arbitrator, according to an email from Board President Mike Walker.

Both sides met with a federal mediator from the Department of Labor on Oct. 17 after reaching an impasse in September.

In those open-meeting negotiations on Sept. 11, health insurance was the main stumbling block for reaching an agreement.

The district has proposed a compensation package addressing base salary increase and defining contributions to health insurance for 2021, but the Hays chapter of the Kansas National Education Association wants to discuss those items separately.

Walker’s email gave a general outline of the arbitration process but did not give a specific timeline.

The school board has requested a list of potential arbitrators from the Kansas Association of School Boards, Walker said in his email, and each side will narrow down that list to one mutually agreed-upon arbitrator.

The two groups will meet with the arbitrator separately, and he or she will provide a non-binding statement of the two positions within two days.

“The Board hopes to move quickly, but we need to narrow down the list and find a time that will work for both sets of negotiators and the arbitrator,” Walker said in the email.

“The Board hopes to reach an agreement on the total compensation package soon so that employees will have time to review their salary increases and any adjustments to the health benefits package before open-enrollment the following year,” Walker said in the email.

This is a developing story. Watch for updates at HDNews.net and in The Hays Daily News.