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D-158 plugs higher-pay contract into budget

HUNTLEY – The new teachers contract will dip District 158’s budget further into red ink, but administrators said they can absorb it as long as state education funding remains stable.

The Huntley district’s recently revised $81.5 million budget for the school year shows a $1.76 million deficit, or a hole $302,450 deeper than the budget that district board members approved in September.

The larger deficit is primarily being driven by additional teachers’ salary increases, said Mark Altmayer, the district’s chief financial officer.

“The contract definitely had a material impact on the budget, but we feel because of the financial shape that we are in, we can manage through it,” Altmayer said.

The district finished last school year with a $1.86 million surplus, he said.

Board members endorsed the September budget, knowing they would have to change it to reflect increases in teacher salaries. Lengthy negotiations with district teachers ultimately produced a three-year, $3.57 million contract that covers July 2012 to June 2015.

The deal between the district and the Huntley Education Association thawed 3.5 percent annual “step” increases for teachers’ classroom experience. Those increases were frozen in the one-year contract that expired in June.

The revised budget reflects $522,000 more for salaries and benefits. Teachers salaries overall are expected to cost the district $1.19 million a year.

Despite the added costs, the district will maintain a balanced budget as long as the state makes its payments to the district, Altmayer said.

“The financial shape is only as good as what the state presents us with,” he said. “There continues to be uncertainty with the state’s finances, but we still are in a fairly good financial position.”

The board recently placed the revised budget on file for review. Board members will vote on it Feb. 22.

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