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No snow day for negotiators

Movement said to be made from both sides

Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 5:15 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 5:48 p.m. CST

DIXON – Five more hours of contract talks ended Tuesday with school board President Tom Balser saying the district cannot afford what teachers are proposing.

In other words, no agreement.

Classes were canceled for a fifth day today as the Dixon Education Association remains on strike. Because of the weather, teachers didn't picket Tuesday.

The union and school board will meet again today at 1 p.m.

The two sides remain apart on salary, health insurance and retirement benefits, despite movement from both sides.

If an agreement is not reached today, the district will begin to lose about $28,506 in general state aid for each day it has no classes, starting Thursday.

The DEA is asking for 2 percent to be added to the salary schedule for each of the next 4 years on top of pay step increases of between 1 percent to 2 percent for experience and education, confirmed Dolph Ricks, union negotiator and teacher at Reagan Middle School. This is a move from 3.75 percent in the teachers' last offer.

Teachers also recommended paying an increased percentage in health insurance, although that could not be confirmed.

The board extended its offer to 4 years with a 2 percent pay increase with no steps in the final year. Their last offer was for 3 years.

Balser said the offer includes a raise each year based on the cost of living.

"The board is requesting that each teacher pay a small percentage of their health insurance premiums that ensures that all teachers will receive a fair raise and quality insurance coverage,” Balser said. “However, the union is requesting raises that this community simply cannot afford without jeopardizing the educational programs of the district.

"Each board member stands firm in the belief that teachers do deserve a fair raise, but not [by] mortgaging the future of the district.”

The district is projecting a $1.6 million deficit and could be looking at $100,000 more lost because of the federal government sequester, despite a $4.2 million surplus in its education fund.

Despite the strike entering its sixth day, the fact that talks continue to go for several hours a day is a positive, Ricks said.

"Every day, every hour we meet we're getting closer to a contract," he said. "As long as both sides are willing to talk, we're getting closer to getting it done."

The district's child care services also will continue at 7:20 a.m. today after being closed Tuesday because of the weather.

What are they asking for?

Salary:

– The Dixon Education Association is asking for 2 percent to be added to the salary schedule for each of the next 4 years, on top of pay step increases for experience and education. This would be a 3 percent to 4 percent pay increase for teachers who qualify for step increases. The cost of these proposals is about $330,000 a year.

– In the first year, the board is offering teachers a soft freeze, meaning only those who qualify for step increases will get a raise of between 1 percent and 2 percent. The board is offering a 1.5 percent raise with no step increases in the second and third year, and in the fourth year, a 2 percent raise with no steps. The cost of these proposals is about $160,000 a year.

Health insurance:

– The board is offering no change in the first year, a 12 percent increase in year two, a 14 percent increase in year three and a 16 percent increase in year four. Starting in 2013-2014, the spouses of new employees may not qualify for coverage if they have their own insurance provided by their employer.

– Teachers' proposals include a willingness to increase health insurance costs.

Retirement:

– The board is offering to keep the 6 percent salary increase for teachers retiring in the next 4 years for this year, limit the perk to 3 years for teachers retiring in 2013-2014, to 2 years in 2014-2015, and end it in 2015-2016.

– Teachers rejected this offer.

What's next?

The teachers' negotiating team and the school board are scheduled to meet for contract talks again at 1 p.m. today.

Teachers also will host a question-and-answer session for the public at 6 p.m. today at the Dixon Elks Club, 1279 Franklin Grove Road.

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