CHAMPAIGN - Champaign teachers' new contract has the potential to push the district's budget into red ink, board members acknowledged Monday.
However, they unanimously approved the three-year contract, which gives teachers 4 percent pay increases the first two years and a 4.5 percent increase the third year. It also gives teachers increases in health insurance coverage, and gives elementary teachers more planning and meeting time.
Daniel Casing, assistant superintendent of financial services and operations, said the new contract will cost the district $1.27 million the first year, $1.22 million the second year and $1.43 million the third year.
Teachers' starting salary the first year of the contract, which is the current school year, is $29,955, and teachers at the top of the scale, with doctoral degrees and 27 years of experience, make $64,118.
Superintendent Arthur Culver has pledged to make the finances work by making cuts elsewhere in the budget to cover the commitment to district teachers, said board member Jeff Wampler.
Wampler said during negotiations with teachers, board and administration members checked and rechecked bottom-line numbers and still couldn't make them add up, but then Culver stepped in.
"He said, 'The teachers are vitally important to this process and we're going to ask a lot of them, so find a way,'" Wampler said before board members voted. "He said he'll find the money, make the cuts to balance the budget."
The pay increase is retroactive to July 1, when the last contract expired, and so is the increase in the district's contribution to employees' insurance coverage, a contribution that increased from $220 to $257 a month for individual coverage, which is equal to the cost of single-person coverage by Health Alliance, one of the insurance options. Dental insurance also was added to the plans.
"We're very pleased to be able to step up the quality of the health care package," said board member Phillip Van Ness. "That was a No. 1 concern. It's a fair, fiscally responsible contract at a time when the state and other districts are gurgling down the toilet."
Board President Scott Anderson said it took 10 months to work out the agreement.
"With tax caps, we depend on growth for new revenue and if there's not growth, there's the potential for a deficit," Anderson said. "We're in balance this year, but it's years two and three we're looking at."
He said administration and board members will target for cuts programs that are ineffective, and they'll look at other areas to trim the budget to make the pay increase work.
With the teachers' contract behind them, the board must now resolve contract negotiations with the district's educational services personnel, who are affiliated with the Illinois Education Association. After a bargaining session last week, they announced progress and plans to meet again with a mediator this week to try to resolve their contract issues.
"It's been a long journey, but we've come to an end," Greg Novak, president of the teachers union, told the board Monday.
Van Ness announced at the meeting that he will not seek re-election to his board seat. But he said he's proud of what the board has achieved during his tenure in spite of the fact that monitors overseeing equity problems in the district have made negative reports about progress.
"This board has repeatedly made efforts to achieve equity," he said. "We didn't spend thousands or millions trying to resist Office of Civil Rights orders like other districts did. We spent money addressing the issues by taking a long list of measures."
He said he's "very disappointed" that monitor Robert Peterkin didn't take that into account.
In other action:
Plans considered for middle school assignments. Deputy Superintendent Carol Stack said the district is considering three different plans for middle school assignments that will affect current fourth-graders. Balancing attendance and racial enrollment at all three middle schools is a key component of those plans. Stack said she will hold community meetings to discuss the options with parents.
Suspension rate data presented. Board members also reviewed suspension rate data presented by Fred Clarke, director of educational support programs. Clarke said the figures are fairly consistent from quarter to quarter, and show that about three-quarters of the students suspended are black - more than twice the percentage of students in the district who are black.
The 2002 state report card for the district shows about 31 percent of the students are black.
He said suspensions cost the district about $38,500 in state aid last semester, but the greatest loss is to the students who are failing to learn because they're not in school.
"We see the names, the families, repeat time after time," said board member Jim Butler. "I look forward to this data about as much as I look forward to a root canal. It's disheartening."
"The numbers are too high," Van Ness said. "The numbers of African-American children are much too high. It's the same old, same old."
Culver said administrators are looking carefully at the options and planning programs like character development to help improve conduct and reduce suspensions.