A new teachers contract has been approved in Benjamin Elementary District 25 that ties salary increases to the rate of inflation.
The five-year agreement was approved unanimously this week by the school board after being ratified April 23 by a unanimous vote of the Benjamin Education Association, which represents about 70 teachers at the district's elementary school in Carol Stream and middle school in West Chicago.
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The contract begins in August and runs through July 31, 2018.
Salary increases will be determined each year based on where the Consumer Price Index falls at that time on a four-range scale:
• If the CPI is less than 0.9 percent, no increases will be awarded on teachers' base salaries, while step increases will be delayed until January instead of the start of the school year in August.
• If the CPI falls between 0.9 percent and 1.89 percent, there will be no increases on base salaries, while step increases will be awarded.
• If the CPI falls between 1.9 percent and 2.59 percent, teachers will receive a $100 increase on their base salaries plus step increases. That range will be in effect for the first year of the contract.
• If the CPI is above 2.6 percent, teachers will receive a $425 increase on their base salaries plus step increases.
Superintendent Phil Ehrhardt said the district wanted to tie compensation increases to the CPI since that's the measurement that drives increases in property tax revenue, which accounts for about 80 percent of the district's total revenue. The previous contract had a link to the CPI, but not to the degree of the new pact.
"We're trying to get more directly linked to what monies we're getting from the state, which are linked to the cost of living," Ehrhardt said. "As CPI goes up, teachers get more of a raise. As CPI goes down, they get less of a raise."
Negotiations started in February and a tentative agreement was reached April 5. Ehrhardt said both sides were willing to negotiate a contract for a five-year term.
"Since we now have a very fair way to calculate raises we felt both sides are taking the risk on this," he said. "So a five-year contract doesn't put each side at too much risk."
Chief union negotiator Mark Bradbury said in a statement, "Both sides entered our contract negotiations with the goal of providing fair compensation for the teachers and maintaining the financial strength of the district. We feel this compensation model will serve both the BEA and the school district well for the terms of the current contract and beyond."
The agreement does not make any changes to fringe benefits.
The district serves students from Carol Stream, West Chicago and nearby unincorporated areas.