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updated: 5/22/2013 5:49 PM

St. Charles teachers get 2.8 raises for each of next three years

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St. Charles Unit District 303 teachers will get their first raise in two years in August following approval of a new three-year contract by the school board.

The deal provides raises of 2.8 percent in each year of the contract.

"Both the board and the teachers are aware that we still live in economically challenging times, and we recognize the demands that our taxpayers are facing, board President Steve Spurling said in a written statement. "At the same time, District 303 needs to stay competitive with other high-performing districts in our area."

Financial forecasts show the new contract equates to $1.72 million in additional salary expenses each year, or $5.17 million in new expenses for the length of the contract. The raises follow a deal with district teachers that locked in a hard freeze on pay that dates back to 2011.

The raises fit with a five-year financial plan the school board formulated in November, which called for increasing the district's tax levy by 2.5 percent for five years. That's lower by about $14 million than the expected maximum levies allowed by law.

The school board, which has a new member since the April election, must approve a budget every year that could deviate from the plan. However, the 2.5 percent increases would still bring in more money than the district currently receives. That new money will fund the raises called for in the new contract.

The teachers union ratified the contract in a separate vote among its members.

"It is this type of partnership that keeps our community strong," union President Pam Turriff said in a written statement.

The new contract also contains a provision that will make retirement a little less sweet for teachers. The prior contract provided for a 6 percent raise for teachers who announced their retirement. The new contract cuts that salary and pension boost to a 4 percent raise. Teacher pensions are based on end-of-career salaries.

District officials believe the new contract and financial plan will allow the district to have balanced budgets for the next three years.

The school board approved the contract with only four "yes" votes. Board Member Judith McConnell was the lone "no" vote. Board Member Nick Manheim abstained from the vote. Board member Jim Gaffney was absent.

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