Roselle Dist. 12 teachers take cost-of-living pay freeze

 
 
Posted2/17/2016 5:25 AM

The Roselle Elementary District 12 school board Tuesday approved a one-year freeze on cost-of-living pay increases for teachers, an offer made by the union to build support for a proposed property tax hike.

Union members unanimously approved the agreement last week, union President Robert Winkler said. The board followed suit Tuesday, one month before the district will ask March 15 primary voters to approve a tax increase that would cost the owner of a $250,000 market-value home about $500 more a year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Not only am I voting 'yes' myself, but I also have to do my part as a teacher," said union Vice President Terri Schoen, who lives in the district. "So we've always done everything else together with the community in this district. There's no reason why we wouldn't do this together. Everybody give a little."

Teachers and the school district were supposed to begin meeting at the bargaining table before their contract expires in June. Instead, both sides agreed to delay talks for one year.

"In my opinion, it puts off making these big decisions for all parties involved until we have a clear understanding of the financial position of the district a year from now," school board member Henry Thiele said.

Andrew Babcock was the lone board member to oppose the agreement, the only item on the agenda during a special meeting Tuesday. Member Jill Sagi abstained from the vote.

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"We should be not restricted on any actions that we would need to take in order to find solutions to our financial situation," Babcock said. "And by delaying it a year, I feel like we're not doing anybody any favors by delaying those very difficult decisions."

Board member Michael Murray disagreed. "I look at this as a cooling off-period, a time for all of us to relationally approach it as opposed to doing it more emotionally," he said. "Emotions will run high after the referendum no matter what happens."

This year, teachers received a 2 percent cost-of-living increase. Under the approved memo of understanding now attached to their current contract, roughly 50 teachers represented by the Roselle Education Association will not receive those raises in the next school year. That will result in a savings of about $35,000, Superintendent Melissa Kaczkowski said. But the district still will provide so-called step and lane increases tied to the number of years teachers work in the district and their completion of course work. The average step increase is about 2 percent, Winkler said. The rest of the contract terms will be extended through June 30, 2017.

"We're trying to help get the referendum passed and give (the district) a path that they know that they're on," said Winkler, who lives in the district.

The starting annual salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree and no prior experience is $43,712, Kaczkowski said. At the top of the pay scale, a teacher with a master's degree, 34 years in the district and 45 hours of coursework receives $108,759.

The tax increase would generate almost $1.5 million annually, allowing the two-school district to avoid deeper cuts to student programs and help turn around its finances after a series of budget deficits, officials say. The board also is facing funding decisions about an estimated $5 million in priority construction work and repairs to the district's three aging buildings.

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