District 155 approves three-year contract with teachers

CRYSTAL LAKE – The Community High School District 155 Board ratified a new contract with its teachers’ union Tuesday, ending a lengthy and difficult negotiation that carried a threat of a strike for the first time in the union’s history.

The new three-year contract will increase expenditures 7.1 percent for teachers’ salaries and benefits over the life of the contract, with no raises beginning until the second year of the deal. The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2013.

T. Ferrier, assistant finance superintendent, had estimated earlier that District 155 would spend an additional $500,000 for every 1 percent increase to teacher salary and benefits, meaning roughly $3.5 million more could be spent in the new contract.

However, the district is decreasing the amount it covers for employee contributions to the retirement system from 96 percent in the first year to 50 percent in years two and three.

Full step and lane movement on the salary schedule will begin in the second year with the salary schedule adjusted to reflect the teacher-paid portion of the Teachers Retirement System contribution.

Only one increase to base salaries will occur and it will be capped at 50 percent of the Consumer Price Index in the third year.

“From the start of this process, the board has always maintained its great admiration for our teachers and their efforts and abilities,” board President Ted Wagner said. “It’s been a tough go.”

Justin Hubly, president of the District 155 Education Association, said he was happy the two sides came together, but still believes the new contract will be closer to a 5 percent increase in costs for the district over three years. He said the district would pay less in salaries and benefits this coming year because of retirements and the pay freeze, meaning the raises will start from a smaller amount than the district budgeted.

Regardless, he told board members after they ratified the contract that is was a disappointing process and trust had diminished. He urged the board to communicate with the faculty team and not just the administrative team in the future.

“It takes so long to build and just seconds to erode,” Hubly said of trust. “Your leadership was absent.”

The teachers’ union approved the contract Friday on a 268-114 vote.

The average teacher salary in District 155 is $94,866, but that number includes department chairs, which are not calculated in average teacher salaries for most districts. That reporting change will be made in District 155 sometime in 2014.

The three-year deal came after 10 months of negotiations that came to a temporary standstill in November.

Both sides submitted final contract offers to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in early November after formally declaring an impasse in negotiations that began in late March. The union authorized an intent to strike for the first time in its 40-year history during the process, but Hubly said it was only for an absolute worst-case scenario.

The full contract will be available on the district website at www.d155.org in the coming days.

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