Barrington Unit District 220 board members Tuesday voted 5-1 to approve a three-year teachers contract that generally gave the district's more than 700 teachers an annual average pay increase of 3.3 percent.
Board member Richard Burkhart cast the sole dissenting vote against the contract, saying he preferred a two-year contract as a way of mitigating the financial uncertainties all his fellow board members acknowledged.
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"You're usurping the power of future boards," he said of the contract's third year.
Board member Tim Hull, who has a relative who works for the district, abstained from the vote.
The new contract, retroactive to the start of the current school year, doesn't affect every teacher the same way each year. But over the life of the contract, every teacher could expect an average annual increase around the same 3.3 percent, board President Brian Battle said.
Nevertheless, he said he felt it was a fair contract for all concerned and one that met all the district's financial criteria of maintaining a balanced budget.
"It's hard to believe it's been 11 months since we began this journey," Battle said of the unusually long negotiating process that finally reached agreement on Feb. 6.
Had that agreement not been reached, the teachers could have legally gone on strike anytime from this Thursday onward.
The fine points of the contract paint a more complicated picture of the salary increases than the annual 3.3 percent generalization.
The contract modifies the teachers' salary schedule to reflect "half steps" during the first two years before reinstatement of the "full step" in year 3.
Base salary increases are 0 and 1.6 percent for the first two years, followed by an increase of half the rate of inflation for the final year.
There are also "last step" bonuses for teachers not receiving step increases.
The contract maintains the current insurance for teachers, with the district's contribution capped at 5.5, 4 and 3 percent each year.
Board member Penny Kazmier said the contract intended to attract and retain exceptional teachers reflects an awareness of the effect the quality of the district's schools has on its property values.
"We all live in the community and we're all taxpayers, too," Kazmier said of herself and fellow board members.