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Sycamore School District 427 finalizes teacher contract

SYCAMORE – Sycamore School District 427 is estimating it will have a small budget deficit again this year after its teachers agreed to forgo raises in the first year of a four-year contract.

School board members formally approved the pact Friday morning by a 5-0 vote, as board President Jim Dombek and Vice President Steve Nelson abstained from the vote because their wives are teachers. School board members had no public discussion about the agreement but met for less than 20 minutes in closed session before taking the public vote.

It mirrored a vote taken about a week ago at a special meeting that violated the Open Meetings Act, because the district did not properly notify the Daily Chronicle despite the newspaper requesting notice of such a meeting.

“We feel very fortunate that we could work with our association and the board so we could come to an agreement,” Superintendent Kathy Countryman said.

Union President Carol Meeks did not immediately return a call for comment Friday afternoon.

The contract includes an experience-based “step increase” in the second, third and fourth years of the contract, as well as a 1.5 percent increase to the base salary schedule in year three and a 2 percent increase to the base salary schedule in year four.

That means a new teacher starting this year would receive a salary, including the pension payments the district makes, of $39,628, said Nicole Stuckert, the district’s director of financial services. That same teacher would make $41,015 in 2014-15, for a 3.5 percent increase. They would make $43,086, or about 5 percent more, in 2015-16, and $45,486, or about 5.5 percent more, in 2016-17.

The district has been operating at a deficit in recent years but has comfortable financial reserves.

On June 30, the district had an overall fund balance – or savings – of $26 million after spending $49 million and receiving $47.5 million in the past year.

Preliminary budget estimates show $54 million in revenue and $57 million in expenses for the current fiscal year, which would leave a projected $22.5 million in savings on June 30, 2014.

The district’s two-year contract with its support staff expires at the end of this school year, so new contract talks likely would be initiated in January.

The district also plans to work with PMA Financial Services to develop five-year financial projections. The consultants are expected to present their findings Oct. 22.

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