D-158 OKs contract with pay raises

ALGONQUIN – District 158 teachers have a contract for the next three years that will cost the district roughly $5.6 million, mostly in annual pay raises for teachers based on classroom experience.

The district board endorsed, 6-0, the new contract in a special meeting Tuesday. The district’s union, the Huntley Education Association, ratified the agreement Monday evening. Board President Michael Skala abstained from the vote because his wife is a district teacher.

The new contract is essentially unchanged from the district’s last three-year contract, which ran from 2008 to 2011. The new deal thaws teacher pay raises that were frozen in a one-year contract that expired in June.

“We have a good contract and we have something that clearly represents our desire to continue to work with the teachers of our district and show our respect for the work that they do, and the results that we have achieved,” said Board Vice President Don Drzal, a lead district negotiator.

The district, with an enrollment of 9,000-plus students, has shown high student achievement for the past five years, including a record-setting ACT composite score last year.

Members said the board this fall became more comfortable with certain compensation issues because of a healthy reserve fund and the state’s newfound ability to make categorical payments, albeit behind schedule.

In the new agreement, teachers who gain classroom experience from year to year are allowed to move up in pay at a rate of 3.5 percent for each of the next three years.

The most veteran teachers, who have exceeded so-called step increases, will be given a 2 percent annual pay raise.

The district’s 2.5 percent contribution to a teacher’s retirement and its compensation for insurance are unchanged from the previous three-year contract.

The agreement roughly will cost the district $1.87 million more a year, totaling $5.6 million. It is retroactively applied, effective July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2015.

Superintendent John Burkey said the board will have to formally amend its budget in spring. But the district can afford the deal in year one because the state made all four of its categorical payments. The last one arrived two months after the fiscal year began in September.

The district has a hazier sense of revenue and expense projections after year one. But, Burkey said, it can rely on a solid reserve fund if the state again skips payments.

The fact that teacher pay raises are closely tied to the rate of inflation – projected at 3 percent this year – is comforting, Burkey said.

“We will not over extend, but I think the board feels that we need to give what we can to support our teachers so that they can be competitively paid,” Burkey said. “I think this will keep the district in a very solid financial footing.”

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