Monday night, the Hays USD 489 school board will consider a counteroffer on the current year’s teacher contracts after negotiating teams seemed to come close to an agreement in a face-to-face meeting last week.

The board’s team — Board President Mike Walker, Lance Bickle and Sophia Rose Young — met with negotiators of the Hays chapter of the Kansas National Educators Association on Thursday in the Toepfer Board Room of the Rockwell Administration Center. At least a couple dozen teachers and new board members Alan Park and Lori Ann Hertel were also present.

On the table at Thursday afternoon’s meeting was a proposal that Board President Mike Walker said was backed by 100 percent of the board after it was discussed in executive session in December.

“The offer we have now stands at $2,000 added to the base salary, which, by the way, gets us very close, at least within $300 of the goal we have of raising the entry level salary for a teacher to $40,000,” Walker said.

The raise would be backdated to the beginning of the school year.

The proposal would also define the district’s monthly contribution to a family health insurance plan at $1,050 and $720 for a single plan for 2020-2021.

The Hays NEA counteroffer is mostly in agreement, but calls for the single plan to be covered at 100 percent.

The premium for a single plan is $720, so therefore the counteroffer would not cost the district any more money next year than the board’s proposal, Hays KNEA negotiators said.

Saying the premium is covered at 100 percent is more marketable to prospective teachers, the KNEA team said, and since it’s negotiated each year, could change when necessary.

“We want to work with the board. If 100 percent ever causes the board hardship, we would definitely come to the table and work with the board,” Kathy Wagoner, co-chair of the Hays KNEA negotiating team, said.

She said the current proposal will save the district $257,000 since the KNEA has compromised on its original request of a raise of $2,450.

Kim Schneweis, co-chair of the KNEA negotiating team, said the language is not something the two sides should be getting stuck on.

“We should be able to go forward with 100 percent, which is $720 at this time, and as Kathy said, if it becomes burdensome, we can address it then,” she said.

She said the teachers have made large concessions in recent years, such as increasing their insurance deductible.

“Our deductible has gone up over 1,000 percent in four years. That’s a huge concession on the teachers. Then to place more and more on them, it’s just piling on every year. And even though we get a raise, then we turn around and take something away. It’s like we never get ahead,” she said.

Walker said the board has had to make concessions, too, taking money from other projects to find an agreeable raise.

“A lot of it is putting money into things like textbooks that we need to buy. We know there’s a push among the teachers to increase the CTE (career and technical education) program, which I’m really on board with, but we may have to slow some of that down,” he said.

Walker said he will take the KNEA’s proposal to the board for discussion Monday, which will likely occur in executive session. He told the teachers the board cannot ratify a contract until the teachers have voted on it.

The negotiating teams will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The two parties will begin negotiations on next year’s contracts in a few weeks.