The Blue Ridge School board and district employees union are 2 percent apart on raises, and are $170,000 apart in total wages and benefits for district workers in 2019-20.
Those figures are included in public postings that will go online by Oct. 7 on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board website. The proposals were provided Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 to the Piatt County Journal-Republican.
The school board is proposing raises of 2.25 percent for 2019-20 and 2 percent each of the next two years. The Blue Ridge Federation of Teachers is proposing 4.25 percent in raises this school year, and has not provided figures for a three-year agreement.
“Though we are willing to consider a multi-year contract, the board has not yet offered a multi-year proposal that we would consider,” said Don Anton, President of the Federation.
The postings show the district originally offered 1 percent raises when negotiations in February, while the union came in at 4.75 percent. Ten negotiating sessions later, teachers are preparing for a strike, which could occur as soon as Oct. 21.
Public posting of the latest offers is part of the required procedure for 110 district teachers and support personnel to walk out.
The two sides are also at odds concerning school district contributions towards health savings accounts. When a high-deductible plan was implemented, $3,000 was donated annually per full-time covered employee, but that figure dropped to $1,904 in 2018-19. Teachers want that to increase to $2,750, while the school district is proposing $2,100 in the first year, rising to $2,500 in the third year of an agreement.
On wages, the district posting points out that teachers receive “step” increases averaging 2.69 percent each for the first 18 years, making a 2.25 wage increase total 4.94 percent increase in overall salary. Support employees receive steps the first eight years.
A 4.25 percent wage increase “would amount to an approximate 6.94 percent for teachers” for 43 of the 63 teachers who would be eligible for step increases, stated the district posting.
District documents also estimate the total cost of their proposal at $230,301 for the current school year, compared to $397,505 for the teacher plan.
But Anton said about $100,000 of the difference would likely be made up with the replacement of retiring teachers with instructors lower on the pay scale, noting that the combined salary of teachers who retired last year was $217,091. Those staff members were replaced by instructors costing a total of $109,062.
Both sides have tentatively agreed to eliminate at least the first step on the salary scale, essentially bumping entry level teacher pay to $37,026. Legislation signed this summer requires all teachers to make a minimum of $40,000 by 2025.
Teachers performing extra duties are currently paid hourly via the wage schedule, but the union would like to simplify that by making it $33 per hour across the board, partially to “avoid payroll errors.”
District officials would like to keep the current procedure in the next contract, saying that with yearly increases that extra duty pay would rise from $23.79 to $28.41 in 2021-22.
Issues also addressed in the postings include a clarification on board-paid retirement contributions, the length of the contract, and the impact of student connection surveys on evaluations.
Employees have been working without a contract since July 1. A third session with an outside mediator is scheduled for Oct. 9.