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Teachers question board spending

Mike Juenger
Mike Juenger

DIXON – Teachers question the school district’s claim that it does not have the money to meet their demands for a new contract, according to a statement issued by their union.

The Dixon Education Association is asking for a 6-percent raise every year for the next 5 years, while the Dixon School Board is proposing no salary increase and wants to increase the amount teachers pay for health insurance.

The union estimates its demands 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 what figures are used, Superintendent Michael Juenger says money is not available to meet the teachers’ demands.

The union points to the district’s $11.8 million surplus and suggests it is missing out on other revenue. “What is the board’s purpose for having $11.8 million in surplus?” the statement asked.

The union says the board has not replaced 25 teachers over the last 3 years, while enrollment has dropped just 40 students.

“When the board makes these huge cutbacks to the staff, the students have larger classes, fewer opportunities for electives, less individual instruction and less exposure to the arts and technology,” the statement said.

Only the education fund can pay for the teachers’ salaries, Juenger said, and that has a surplus of about $4.2 million.

If teachers demands are met, the surplus would disappear within 2 to 3 years, he said.

He is projecting a $1.6 million deficit this year and forecasting more of the same in the future. Without those staff cuts, the district would be in much worse shape financially, he said.

“This board believes in not cutting everything at once,” Juenger said. “We want to have time to work through those savings over time, and that surplus gives us that opportunity to make the surgical cuts as time goes by.”

The teachers union asked, if money is short, why did the Dixon School Board enter into a TIF agreement with the city giving away about $88,000 in annual tax revenue? Why would the board plan to build a sports and activities complex at a cost of $200,000 a year, spend $26,629 on negotiations and increase administrator’s pay and benefits?

By extending the TIF, the union estimates in the next 12 years, the board will have given away a little more than $1 million in potential tax revenue “that could have been used for educating students.”

Instead of a taxing body, such as the school district, taking the revenue, a TIF, or tax increment finance district, recycles those funds for infrastructure or redevelopment projects to attract new businesses to the community.

Juenger said it was a tough decision for the board, but members saw it as an investment.

“The more business you can bring to your community, the more families and students come into your district,” Juenger said.

While the board pointed out the district cannot use any funds from the proposed 1-percent sales tax for running a sports and activities complex, Juenger said the potential revenue would have offset other costs in the operations and maintenance fund.

Also, the union says district administrators received a 4.78 percent raise in 2011-2012 when teachers agreed to their last contract of a 2-year soft freeze.

Juenger said after a 2-year hard freeze, $1,800 of medical insurance was paid by the district for principals and $600 for assistant principals in agreement for them to work 5 more calendar days. He is uncertain where the union’s 4.78-percent figure came from.

In 2011, after 2 years with no raise, Juenger was offered a 4-year retirement package with a 6-percent raise each year. This year, Juenger will make a salary-plus-pension of $190,096. When he retires in 2015, his salary-plus-pension will be about $213,592.

Teachers asked why such a deal was given after the superintendent had worked in Dixon for only 2 years?

Juenger said that a competitive deal was part of what enticed him to the district and that the 6-percent retirement bonus also is given to teachers.

Representatives from the teachers union are scheduled to speak with Sauk Valley Media on Wednesday.

Have questions?

Representatives from the Dixon Education Association will be holding question-and-answer sessions for the public from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday at Books on First, 202 W. First St.

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