January 18, 2013
Dear District 46 Family:
This has been a tough week for everyone. The School District and the Board of Education recognize that the community would like to see negotiations conclude and the school strike end immediately. We share this sentiment, and will continue to work hard toward resolution.
School District 46 is committed to fair compensation for our quality teachers, but we must balance that against very challenging financial realities. Our School District faces serious multi-year budget deficits, diminishing funds from the state, and declining revenues. At the same time, unlike other neighboring school districts, we have avoided teacher lay-offs and kept class sizes small, preserving jobs, and maintaining educational quality while living within our means.
Here’s where things stand: We have been negotiating with the teachers union (Lake County Federation of Teachers) since February 2012, and during that time have made good progress on many items. However, we still remain far apart on teacher salary and retirement. Currently, the Board is proposing a salary freeze for the 2012-2013 school year, and a one-time $1,000 stipend during the 2013-2014 school year, plus maintaining all benefits. The last proposal from the teachers union included an increase (lane change) that would cost $133,000 in year-one, and $1,080,000 of new costs in year two of the contract.
During Thursday’s negotiating session, a federal mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services presented a proposal for consideration. That proposal would still have cost the District $650,000 over the next two years. While the Board appreciates and respects the mediator’s work, the District does not have the money to support this proposal.
The State of Illinois, under its own financial pressures, underpaid the District by $1.5 million last year. We anticipate a $2.2 million deficit next year. Even without a salary increase for our teachers, the District still may face very challenging decisions, including eliminating teacher positions, increasing class sizes, ending extracurricular programs and possibly even closing one of our schools. The community decided against a levy that would raise taxes and help to close this gap.
Additionally, there is a misconception regarding the District’s finances and its "reserve" funds being reported in the media. The Board's budget projects an end-of-fiscal-year balance in most operating funds, which when totaled is approximately $16 million. The end-of-fiscal-year fund balance is a snapshot taken on June 30 of each year, after the receipt of the first installment of taxes. For example, over the course of the year, as revenue is received and expenses are paid, the Educational Fund experiences a low-point balance of only $1.9 million (equivalent to only 28 days of expenses). Every year of budget deficit will further erode the end-of-year fund balance and also further reduce the low-point of the fund. This fund balance is necessary for the District to manage its cash flow and to meet its continuing financial obligations, including payroll.
The Board has never contended that the teachers do not deserve a salary increase. Rather, the Board has stressed that any salary expectations of the teachers must be something the Board has the ability to finance. In the current economic situation, that ability is limited. The Board has tried to be mindful of the needs of its students, teachers, residents and taxpayers throughout this process.
Representatives from the District and the teachers union are scheduled to meet again Sunday, January 20, and are committed to meeting sooner and/or throughout the day Monday as needed to reach agreement.
We hosted two town hall meetings on these issues in December and early January, and remain very interested in hearing from parents and community members on this issue. Please direct your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond to them as quickly as possible.
Our goal has always been to preserve quality education in this District while ensuring we have the funds to support that education long into the future. We are committed to resolving the strike as quickly as possible.
Community Consolidated School District 46
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