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updated: 8/6/2011 6:14 PM

Cary 26 board says no to union

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The Cary Elementary District 26 school board has declined an offer from the teachers union to enter into binding final arbitration.

At a special meeting Thursday, the district's negotiating team agreed that the board and the Cary Education Association are at an impasse and that submitting to a third party in interest arbitration could be detrimental to the district's financial future.

Under interest arbitration, a third party would be responsible for making final and binding decisions based on the final offers both parties submitted last month to the Illinois Educational Labor Review Board.

"Putting the future of our district in the hands of a third party would be irresponsible," Jason Larry, the board's vice president, wrote in a letter to the teachers union leadership on Friday. "The district simply cannot afford the current proposal from the CEA. Being forced to accept the proposal not only takes us backwards financially, but also would delay us in achieving our goal of bringing back programs and lowering class sizes."

A news release from the union said while the response from the district is unsettling, the membership remains optimistic that both sides can finalize a new contract before the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

"While this is very disconcerting, the CEA remains hopeful that this means the Board of Education for District 26 is ready to make forward progress by reviewing proposals and both parties making changes so a fair and equitable agreement can be reached," the release sent Friday afternoon said.

The teachers' most recent offer, a proposed 3-year contract, includes a salary freeze, increased health insurance contributions from teachers and an additional 15 minutes per school day.

In its final offer, the district proposed a 2-year contract that includes salary rollbacks to 2008-2009 levels, eliminating post-retirement payouts, as well as reduced insurance contributions. The board also proposed adding 30 minutes to each school day. The existing contract expires on Aug. 23, the day before school starts.

Though the sides are at an impasse, they have agreed to meet for a mediation session on Tuesday.