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updated: 5/4/2011 4:13 PM

District 117 delay raise with contract extension

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Antioch and Lakes high school teachers have agreed to delay a 5 percent pay raise scheduled for next year in order to keep important academic programs operating and avoid layoffs.

Teachers and administrators agreed to keep a salary freeze in place through summer 2012, as part of the contract extension approved this week by the Antioch-Lake Villa Area High School District 117 board, officials said Wednesday. The freeze includes step increases, officials said.

The new contract does give teachers that 5 percent raise incrementally before the contract expires in 2014, officials said, but the increase is split into a 3 percent increase in 2013 and a 2 percent bump in 2014.

Officials from both sides said the agreement will save money that could help prevent some teacher layoffs at a time when the state of Illinois is behind on funding, officials said.

"It is great to see two sides continue to meet and discuss the health and well-being of an organization outside the traditional negotiations that occur every three or four years," District 117 Co-Superintendent Mike Nekritz said in a news release. "The current contract, signed in 2008, was already in place for next year. For both parties to see past this and examine the long-term position of our organization says something about our shared values, vision, and mutual trust."

District 117 has been cutting expenses in recent years, officials said, to offset a payment shortfall of $2.1 million from the state.

Nekritz said the district reduced its budget in 2009-10 by $800,000, then cut $1.2 million in 2010-11. The current budget plan for next school year reduces expenditures by more than $1.5 million, he added.

Because of the uncertain future involving state funding, Nekritz said, talks with the teachers union started last year rather than waiting until the current contract expired in summer 2012.

When the contract extension was first brought up last year, District 117 teachers agreed to freeze all nonteaching stipends until June 2012, he said. That saved the district nearly $100,000 over two years, Nekritz said, but also opened the door for the renegotiation process to begin.

Charlie Trout, president of the District 117 Education Association, said bargaining was designed to keep some educational programs intact and continue putting the students first.

"By agreeing to open the contract, not only did we save money that would protect jobs for staff and programs for students, we also avoided the traditional costs associated with formal negotiations," he said.