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updated: 8/10/2011 5:37 PM

Cary school board says no to union

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The latest contract proposal from the Cary Education Association includes a number of concessions from teachers, but school board members say the district still cannot afford the terms of offer.

Members of the negotiating teams from the union and the Cary Elementary District 26 school board met Tuesday to discuss a new teacher contract.

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In its latest proposal, the teachers ceded a third year of salary freezes, eliminated the $20,000 payout at retirement and limited the 6-percent pre-retirement salary bump to one year. The union also agreed to cut reimbursements for unused sick days and increase employee contributions for health coverage.

"It was our hope that with the additional concessions offered by the Cary teachers, programs would have been restored and class sizes reduced," a news release from the union said. "Unfortunately, the board rejected the teachers' proposal, declared that we continue to be at impasse, and said that they had no counter-offer for the teachers. This is not negotiating."

Union spokeswoman Dana Cook said the latest financial expectations from the district totaled about $1.8 million. The concessions in retirement and health insurance costs in the union's latest offer would save the district about $2 million over the length of the three-year contract, Cook said.

But school board member Scott Coffey, who participated in Tuesday's meeting, said the two sides still are far apart on financial issues. Coffey, however, would not comment on the disparities.

"Just because something is different now from what it was before doesn't mean that it is now affordable," Coffey said Wednesday. "The offer was different from what it had been, but it wasn't enough to change the status of negotiations."

A sticking point that was resolved Tuesday was the length of the school day. Teachers and the board agreed to add 60 minutes to the length of the school day, which would add the equivalent of 41 days to the school year, Cook said.

There are no plans, as yet, for a meeting before school starts in two weeks.

Since November, the board and the union have met 18 times to hash out a deal to replace the current contract, which expires Aug. 23. An impasse was declared in early July as the two sides could not reach an agreement on issues from the length of the school day to insurance contributions.

Last month, the union invited the district to enter into final binding arbitration, which the district rejected. Under that scenario, a third party would be responsible for making final and binding decisions based on the final offers both parties submitted to the Illinois Educational Labor Review Board last month.

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