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Board releases its last offer

Teachers want 6 percent raise; board wants no raise at all

DIXON  –  Teachers are asking for a 6 percent salary increase every year for 5 years, according to a final offer released Thursday by the Dixon School Board.

The board, however, is proposing no salary increase and wants to increase the amount teachers pay for health insurance.

The Dixon Education Association estimate its demands, which include changes to special education, pension, tuition reimbursement and sick days, would cost the district about $2 million a year over the life of a 5-year contract. The board contends the demands would cost about $6.3 million a year.

No matter which estimate is used, Superintendent Michael Juenger said the money isn't there.

The school lost about $700,000 in revenue this year from a drop in property tax intake and general state aid, and even less revenue is expected in upcoming years.

"We can't afford either one of them," Juenger said. "We can think of no viable solution to pay for their demands. We operated $57,000 in the black this past year, pretty much a balanced budget, and it won't get any easier."

Teachers have been working without a contract since August.

Five negotiating sessions, including one later this month, have been scheduled after an impasse was declared by the board last week, starting a process in which the union could strike.

As required, both sides sent their final offers to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board; they will be posted on its website before Tuesday.

At least 14 days must pass once final offers are posted before the union can call a strike.

Juenger indicated both sides have done little negotiating, accounting for the polarization in their numbers.

"It's important to remember collective bargaining by nature is an adversarial process," Juenger said. "What is occurring in that regard is not unusual."

Regardless whether a pay increase is negotiated, some teachers still will receive a 2-percent raise, according to the school's salary schedule. That 2 percent, which cannot be negotiated away, is included in the 6 percent increase the board says the union is seeking.

The board estimates that 2 percent will cost about $100,000 in the first year, which includes salary increases to teachers retiring in the next 4 years and salary increases to teachers who gained additional education.

Teachers took a soft freeze the past 2 years. The average teacher makes $57,021 a year.

While the board is saying no to a salary increase, it also is asking teachers to add 40 minutes to their work day without compensation. For the union to do so, it says it would need more pay or more days off.

The board wishes to keep the work calendar the same.

Currently, the district pays all pension costs, and provides a 6-percent salary increase during a teacher's last 4 years of employment. The board wants to put an end to the salary hike in those final years and rejects a teachers proposal to pay any additional pension costs.

When it comes to insurance, a teacher now pays $50 per month for single coverage or $150 for family coverage, while the district pays $500 for single coverage and $1,300 for family. The board wants to increase the teacher's share.

Sandra Sodergren-Baar, union president and teacher at Dixon High School, said the union has no comment at this time, as plans were made to speak with Sauk Valley Media about its offer next week.

"We are honoring the guidelines set forth by the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board Act as described in Illinois Senate Bill 7," Sodergren-Baar wrote in an email. "Our members have not yet seen the DEA or the Board of Education last offers because of our intention to follow the law."

The law says the mediator shall make offers public, but does not state specifically whether any party can make it public before then. 

The board's final offer

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