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No contract for DESPA

Board, union will meet again early next month

DIXON – District paraprofessionals still are working without a contract.

The Dixon Educational Support Personnel Association, the union representing the paraprofessionals, voted against ratifying a contract agreement with the Dixon School Board on Tuesday, forcing the board to table the agenda item at Wednesday's meeting.

Members of the paraprofessionals' union, which represents teachers aides and assistants, could not abide by the health insurance provisions, DESPA President Mindy Donoho said after Wednesday's school board meeting.

Also, the union is concerned the district could eliminate full-time paraprofessional positions, Donoho said.

The two sides will meet again either Oct. 1, 2 or 7.

"We've been working together," Donoho said of the school board. "There are some good things in the contract, too. Insurance has been the main holdup."

Paraprofessionals worked all of last year without a contract and asked for mediation about 3 months ago. The union represents 48 full- and 16 part-time paraprofessionals.

In total, the two groups have met 18 times.

Members agreed not to negotiate while talks with the Dixon Education Association dragged into March and spurred a strike that canceled 9 days of classes. Paraprofessionals remained at work during the strike to run the district’s child care program.

The district had since reached agreements with its other district employees. Each group received a pay raise of about 2 percent, which provided a starting point for talks with DESPA, Superintendent Michael Juenger said back in June.

He has said the district would like to reach an agreement in line with the district's other unions.

Also Wednesday, the school board finalized its budget for fiscal year 2014. There were no significant changes to the tentative budget proposed at last month's meeting that was posted for public review on the school's website, said David Blackburn, business manager for the district.

The district is eyeing a projected deficit of a little more than $2 million across all its funds, leaving it with a $6.6 million total fund balance.

There the deficit is projected at about $1.47 million, leaving a fund balance of $1.44 million in the education fund.

The education fund is the largest and most critical in a school district, funding everything from teachers’ salaries to educational programs.

The education fund went from a fund balance of $4.3 million in 2012 to the projected $1.44 million at the end of the school year.

Board member Jim Schielein requested the district's administration write a letter to State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, and State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, urging them to push for better education funding.

The district has seen a $2.4 million drop in general state aid funding since 2009, according to reports from Juenger.

In other items, the board accepted a donated house at 520 Nachusa Drive. The home currently is being rented and the administration will meet with the renter sometime next week, Juenger said.

The board will have to determine whether to keep the renter, who pays $300 per month, renovate the home using its building and trades class, sell it or tear it down, Juenger said.

The district also entered into a service agreement with KSB Hospital to provide an on-site athletic trainer for Dixon High School sporting events.

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