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Impasse declared on D-426 contract negotiations

The Hiawatha District 426 Board and its teachers union are at loggerheads in contract negotiations for the second time in as many years.

The Hiawatha Classroom Teachers Association has declared negotiations to be at an impasse, which requires each side to file their final
offers with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

The school board wants to forgo step-based pay increases for teachers, which are based on years of experience, for a second consecutive year.

Instead, the board proposes to pay all district teachers an extra $650 this year.

The teachers union wants a 2.5 percent raise for its members, which includes a $500 base salary increase.

Last year, teachers remained on the job until mid-November before a contract deal was reached. Teachers have not filed an intent-to-strike notice with the labor board.

The school board described the pay increases that the union is seeking as being “unsustainable.”

“Continuing to follow it will only serve to increase both the size and severity of the staff and program/activity cuts that simply cannot be avoided,” the board said in a statement attached to their final offer.

Both the board and Hiawatha Superintendent Sarah Willey cite the numerous fiscal challenges facing District 426.

In a statement posted on the district’s website, Willey said the district would have a deficit of $789,415.

Five teachers, with a cumulative salary of roughly $344,000, retired at the end of the 2012 school year.

The union is proposing using that money to pay for the salary increase, which it projects would cost the district $65,000.

Willey discounts the idea of using the savings in her statement: “The projected deficit for 2012-13 includes the savings of $249,000 for teachers who have retired or resigned from the District.”

The average teacher at Hiawatha made $50,764 for the 2011-12 school year. Taking into account pension payments and medical insurance, average compensation rises to $63,130.

The board’s proposal would increase that total amount by 1.71 percent to $64,210. The union’s proposal would increase it by 3.69 percent to $65,460.

Factoring into the district’s financial woes is shrinking state support. The district received $5.6 million in fiscal 2012. This fiscal year, they’re expecting a 4 percent drop in funding, receiving just more than $5.4 million.

The board has agreed to the union’s other demands. The union is requesting that the district pay up to 8 percent of a teacher’s medical insurance, which would amount to $657 a month for each employee.

Calls to Willey and the teachers’ union were not returned Monday.

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