Thursday, March 15: Elmhurst Unit District 205 Board declared an impasse in its labor negotiations with the Elmhurst Teachers Council Wednesday.
The main obstacles toward a settlement have been "issues related to compensation," according to a statement by the School District. Negotiating teams came to agreement last month on "nearly all of the language issues in question," but the Teachers' Council "overwhelmingly" voted down that new proposal Feb. 24.
According to a statement from the teachers' union, written by union President Katy Padberg, the district's proposal would freeze teacher salaries in the short term and cut them over time. Bonuses offered next year and the year after "would expire at the end of the contract, moving teacher salaries in 2014 back to where they were in 2010."
"These cuts will make salaries in Elmhurst less competitive with surrounding districts, making it more difficult to attract and retain the best teachers," Padberg said. "We don’t think the district needs to become less competitive at a time when the district has a $27.9 million surplus. That surplus has grown over $13 million in just the last three years. The district is in great financial shape; this is not a situation where they are forced to make serious cuts."
At the Feb. 28 School Board meeting, however, board member Jim Collins presented an update on work being done in the district's Finance and Operations Committee.
"Right now, we're projecting revenues between $600,000 and $1 million short of what our projected expenses will be next year," he said.
The administrative cabinet is being asked to "propose action to balance the next fiscal year budget," which could include further budget cuts.
The finance committee also is looking at a possible increase in facility use fees by outside groups, bond refinancing and other methods to bolster finances in a climate of a sagging economy, and late payments and unfunded mandates from the state of Illinois.
District officials have said budget projections will come to the full board March 20, but there are some wildcards. The latest discussion in Springfield is regarding a move to shift the obligation for teacher pension payments from the state to the local school districts, a move for the districts.
District 205 also publication Friday to give the public an idea of where district revenues come from, what money is spent on and more.
"Considering the current economic climate, the uncertainty of school funding and pending discussions on pension reform, the board does not believe that it can offer any additional money for salary, benefits or other compensation beyond its last offer," the district statement reads. "In comparison to other unit districts in the collar counties, Elmhurst teachers are competitively compensated."
The teachers union representatives said they wish to tie their salary advancement to the Consumer Price Index.
"Our modest proposal would help teachers keep up with the cost of living and keep us from sliding backwards," according to their statement.
In accordance with the dictates of Senate Bill 7, which became law last August, the process will now require both parties to submit last and final offers to a federal mediator within the next seven days. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board will then exchange the offers with the parties involved and post those offers on its website within an additional seven days.
The School Board says it is willing to continue negotiations during this time. A session is scheduled with the Elmhurst Teachers Council for Friday, March 16.
The law states that if the dispute is not settled, the union must provide its employer with a formal notice of intent to strike at least 10 days in advance of engaging in a strike. The district would share this advance notice with the community, but no such action will be taken prior to spring break, officials said.
Currently eight public school districts, one special education cooperative and one community college have filed Impasse Final Offers, according to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board website.
The Elmhurst Teachers Council is part of the West Suburban Teachers Union, Local 571 and the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT).