The Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 school board inked a new four-year contract with employees Thursday that calls for salary increases averaging 3.25 percent each year.
The deal, unanimously approved by the board and ratified with the support of 70 percent of union members, also makes changes to insurance plans available to employees starting in 2019.
District officials estimate the contract will mean a savings of 3.6 percent of operating fund expenditures, as compared to terms of the current agreement, which expires in August.
The agreement covers some 700 teachers, teacher assistants, secretaries, registered nurses, therapists and custodians in the district.
Bargaining teams for the board and District 21 Education Association, an affiliate of the Illinois Education Association, hashed out details for the new contract over the course of about 10 meetings since last October.
At the school board meeting Thursday night, Board President Phil Pritzker said both sides have developed "trust and mutual respect."
"It's been an evolution," Pritzker said. "I remember my first one in 1991. It was the old style. This is so, so much better."
The contract calls for base salary increases of 3.25 percent in the school years of 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. Raises for the last two years of the contract have a floor of 2 percent and ceiling of 3.25 percent, depending on what the Consumer Price Index will be.
The salary increases are a combination of that rate, reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, and a factor of 1 1/2 percent, according to the contract.
Teachers can receive another $2,000 to $3,000 if they have additional degrees or credit hours. But for the first time, the contract removes step salary schedules for educational support personnel and custodians. Teachers don't have step schedules in the new or old agreements.
The new contract also lists the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Consumer Driven Health Plan as the district's "core" health insurance policy that employees can receive starting in January. As part of the plan, the board will contribute $1,000 to individual Health Savings Accounts starting next year.
Other benefit plan options that will be available to employees are not listed in the agreement, but will be announced at a later date, said Mary Werling, the district's assistant superintendent for finance.
The contract is in effect from Aug. 1, 2018, through July 31, 2022.
District 21 has nine elementary schools, three middle schools and an early childhood school serving residents in portions of Wheeling, Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and Northbrook.