Three-year Hoopeston contract unanimously approved
HOOPESTON – Hoopeston teachers are working under a new three-year contract that will give them a 3.9 percent salary increase each year.
Hoopeston Area school board members unanimously approved the agreement during their regular meeting on Thursday.
"I think both sides are happy with it," board President Steve Unger said, referring to the school district and the Hoopeston Education Association.
"It's been a long time working on it." The education association unanimously ratified the agreement on Nov. 1.
It has 75 members, but it bargains for 102 certified staff across the district's high school, middle school and three elementary schools.
The contract is retroactive to Sept. 1 and goes to Aug. 31, 2009. Under the agreement, base pay will go from $24,975 to $25,575 this year. That figure will increase to $26,175 in September 2007, and $26,775 in September 2008.
While the base pay increases $600 each year, Superintendent Mark Conolly pointed out that the annual 3.9 percent increase also includes "slight" pay increases for longevity and steps.
Also under the agreement, union members will receive 12 sick days per year, up from 10, and two personal days, up from one.
Conolly added that the district's monthly contribution for individual health coverage will go to $420 this year, up from $410; $440 in September 2007; and $460 in September 2008.
Also, all certified staff hired after Sept. 15, must pay their "fair share" for benefits they receive through the education association.
Non-union members hired prior to Sept. 15 do not have to pay.
The board's approval capped about eight months of negotiations between the school district and union. The union's last contract, which was for one year, expired on Aug. 31.
The union brought in a federal mediator to help broker the talks after they stalled this fall.
The two sides reached a tentative agreement early morning on Oct. 31, after a marathon negotiation session that lasted 12 hours.
Like Unger, Chris Newman, the union's chief negotiator, said she's relieved negotiations are over.
"I think we're all relieved to reach this point in the negotiations process," said Newman, a fourth-grade teacher at Honeywell Elementary School. "Now all of the teachers can totally focus on what they do best, and that's teaching the kids. They were troopers and hung in there with the kids every step of this process."
Also at the meeting, the board adopted a 2006 tax levy for the district.
Under the levy, the district will raise about $3.09 million in property taxes next year. Conolly estimated the tax rate would be about $4.63 per $100 of assessed valuation.
That means owners of a $60,000 home with no exemptions would pay the district about $926 in taxes, provided their assessed valuation does not go up. Conolly said that's "nearly the same" as last year.
He cautioned that if the district's total equalized assessed valuation changes, the rate will reflect that increase or decrease.
District officials won't know the actual amount until next spring.
"Last year it was just over $60 million," he said, adding he believes values have flatlined. "We don't think there's going to be very much growth."