Jamaica board OKs one-year union contract

Jamaica board OKs one-year union contract

SIDELL — School officials approved a one-year contract with members of the Jamaica Education Association that will give most members a 2.5 percent salary increase.

Although employee agreements in the district usually run two years or more, Superintendent Phil Harrison said that both the Jamaica Community Unit School Board and the JEA decided that a one-year deal made more sense in this case, because of the possibility that the Catlin and Jamaica districts could consolidate after this school year.

"This is a good deal," Harrison said.

In related business, the board also unveiled a proposed $4.48 million spending plan for the 2014-15 fiscal year that includes a projected deficit of about $342,500.

Harrison said he expects to make few adjustments to the proposed budget between now and the Sept. 23 school board meeting. Despite reduced personnel costs and lowered insurance rates, the district still expects to have a deficit because of the cost of educating a relatively high number of special needs students — four instead of the one or two the district usually has — and because an influx of elementary-school students caused the board to hire an additional kindergarten and third-grade teacher.

"If we did not have a healthy cash balance held in reserve, we would not be able to absorb that $342,500 deficit," Harrison said.

The $4.41 million 2013-14 budget called for a $190,000 deficit, but the district ended up with a surplus of about $140,000 at the end of the year.

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