CRYSTAL LAKE – Roughly 200 teachers from Community High School District 155 came to the board meeting at Prairie Ridge High School on Tuesday to support their president’s stance as contract negotiations with the district continue.
Justin Hubly, president of the district’s education association, spoke briefly to the board Tuesday, reminding leaders it was not the previous union contract that led to the district’s first-ever operating deficit last fiscal year.
A $1.8 million deficit in the operating fund, he argued, was caused by the cut in general state aid and a
$1 million expense outside of negotiated contract costs the board approved for materials, supplies and other educational resources last year. The contract, as approved, would have resulted in a surplus for the district just as it had the 25 previous years, Hubly said.
Even with no union contract approved, the board approved a budget Tuesday that could carry a surplus or deficit depending on the outcome of negotiations.
The district could have a $200,000 surplus if salaries and benefits remain flat as projected, but for every 1 percent potential increase, the district must spend about $500,000, according to T. Ferrier, assistant superintendent of finance. A 1 percent increase could cause a $300,000 deficit.
District board members could have difficult cuts to make after auditor Matthew Geerdes said operational reserves would be depleted in 5 years if last year’s deficit spending trend continued.
The district ended fiscal 2012 with enough reserves to cover 5.6 months of operations. It ended fiscal 2013 with enough reserves to cover 4.6 months.
“State revenue is going down,” Geerdes said. “And property taxes can only cover so much.”
Both Hubly and board president Ted Wagner have said both sides continue to negotiate, with Hubly adding teachers would continue to go on with “business as usual.”
Under terms of the previous agreement reached in June 2011, the salary schedule for the district’s more than 400 teachers was frozen. In the first year, pay remained flat for the 88 teachers at the top of the schedule. The rest of the teachers received a step increase of $2,404.
The agreement also called for teachers to pay more for health insurance. Additional employee contributions for benefits made up the majority of the estimated $2 million in savings over two years.