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updated: 7/28/2011 9:01 AM

Negotiations could restart in District 26

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It's the final month of summer vacation, but there's no end in sight to the contract negotiations between the Cary Elementary District 26 teachers union and school board.

Earlier this week, board President Christopher Spoerl said the parties would resume talks at a date to be determined. The sides have been at an impasse since early July. Since then, negotiating teams from both parties have not met, but Spoerl indicated the union approached board representatives asking to meet again.

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A teachers union spokesman did not return emails seeking comment for this column.

The main sticking points are salaries, the length of the teacher work day, retirement contributions and health care benefits. The length of the contract is also in dispute with the teachers asking for a three-year deal, while the board wants a two-year deal.

In a presentation to the board Monday night, Spoerl outlined the differences in the proposals.

The board proposed extending the work day an extra 15 minutes to seven hours and 30 minutes, but the union proposed maintaining the current seven hour and 15 minute-long school day.

In addition, the board proposed eliminating the $20,000 retirees receive immediately after retiring, as well as the $10 per day of sick leave the teacher had not used. These benefits were expected to cost the district about $1.1 million in the next four years.

But the union argued that the retirement benefits should remain the same because their proposed salary freezes would result in smaller Teacher Retirement System contributions.

Furthermore, the board and union could not reach an agreement on insurance, with the union asking the board to pay for 85 percent of single health care premiums both years and 100 percent of dental for singles both years. The union estimated a savings of $152,280 annually.

However, the board offered to pay $7,000 in 2011-2012 toward the elected coverage and $3,000 in 2012-2013.

The current three-year contract expires the day before school starts on Aug. 25. Spoerl said no deadline has been set for finalizing a new agreement.

"Sooner or later there needs to be an agreement in one way, shape or form," Spoerl said. "If we didn't meet, we would not be letting the process proceed."

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