The teachers are working under the terms of a three-year contract that expired June 30, and discussion on the new contract broke down nearly as soon as they started—after beginning discussions in January, the HEA declared an impasse in the talks in May.
Both sides took time at Monday's meeting to outline some of the issues at the heart of the negotiations—here are three things each side wants the public to know about the negotiations, in their own words:
HEA:1. Pension reform payments have increased, causing teachers' net income to decline.
The pension reform legislation that was enacted in 2011 increases contributions by one percent annually, starting at 5.5 to 6.5 percent of pay, for seven year. Additionally, teachers now pay 18 percent of health insurance costs, up from 12 percent.
2. Hillsborough teachers pay more for their health and medical insurance than any others in New Jersey.
"With the health care costs, there are options out there," HEA President Daynon Blevins said at Monday's meeting. "Such as the state health benefits plan, which offers many, many plans."
The district and union had agreed to switch to the state plan earlier, but change did not occur after the district received a competitive bid from a private insurer for this year (the district can switch providers offering comparable or better coverage and rates anytime without union negotiations or approval, Belvins said Tuesday).
3. State-mandated assessments have added to teachers' workloads.
"You are all aware of the increased workload imposed upon the staff by the board and the state, and the staff being overwhelmed by unreasonable demands," HEA Second Vice-President Maria DeLucia said at Monday's meeting. "Last year, you received letters telling you about this and in board meetings, you heard about it."
Teachers have also complained of the added work required for implementation of the district's technology plan, and the lack of training offered to use new devices in classrooms.
District:1. Property tax increases are limited to 2 percent annually, and the district tries to stay below that.
"The district is facing many needs and constraints," Board President Thomas Kinst said at Monday's meeting. "The constraint we have on the local district is there is a two percent cap on the local tax levy."
2. Health care costs increasing "explosively."
Kinst called the increases in the district's health care costs as "explosive"—in fact, in his budget presentation at the March 4 board meeting, Dr. Schiff said the district is "anticipating an approximate 15 percent increase inn future years."
"Having a double digit increase while you're capped at two percent is always a significant challenge," Dr. Schiff said in his presentation.
3. State aid is flat or rising very little.
"We've had a recent history of little state aid increases, and as everyone probably knows, the economy has been depressed for the last couple of years," Kinst said.
The district received a scant $13,000 increase in state aid this year, and a $1.6 million—about 6.6 percent—increase in 2012 to restore earlier large cuts to state aid.
A meeting with a state-appointed mediator was held Sept. 30 and another is set for Oct. 22, which Kinst said was moved up from a December date to try and expedite the negotiations.