UPPER DUBLIN After nearly a year of unsuccessful contract negotiations with the support staff union, the Upper Dublin school board has turned to a neutral fact-finder.

Negotiations between the district and the Upper Dublin Education Support Personnel Association, which represents about 180 bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, and other support staff, began in January six months before their contract was to expire.

In a news release, board president Art Levinowitz said that, faced with an ongoing budget deficit, the board would consider outsourcing some support positions unless the new contract contains some cost savings for the district.

As of Dec. 16, the two sides were at or near an impasse, and the district asked the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to intervene.

Arbitrator John Skonier is reviewing the written case and will hear arguments Jan. 13, said Mark Fitzgerald, an attorney for the district.

The fact-finding report is due Jan. 26. Both sides would then decide whether to adopt the recommendations or return to the negotiating table.

A similar process played out with the Upper Dublin teachers' union over the summer. In July, the district accepted a state fact-finder's recommendations, but the teachers rejected it. That contract, which also expired in June, has still not been resolved, Fitzgerald said.

- Jessica Parks