District 304 offer would slice teachers' financial benefits

Published: Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 7:34 p.m. CDT

GENEVA – For the first time in recent history, Geneva School District 304 officials are proposing to end automatic step increases for teachers in the first two years of the contract, according to both sides' last best offers posted online.

And by the end of the three-year agreement, the board wants to limit the number of lanes a teacher may move in any one year, also according to the district's offer. Step increases are based on teachers' experience, and lane movement is based on their continuing education.

As Geneva teacher contract talks continued Friday, both sides' last best offers were posted on three websites.

Both are on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board at www2.illinois.gov/elrb, as well as on the district and union's respective websites, www.geneva304.org/negotiations.asp and www.gea4students.org.

The last best offers are being made public because the Geneva Education Association declared an impasse in contract talks. Teachers also supported the authorization to strike, but did not actually take a vote to walk out, union president Carol Young said. If they did, the earliest the membership could strike would be Nov. 9.

The GEA proposes a 1 percent pay increase in the first two years, and step and lane increases. In the third year, 2014-15, teachers would accept a pay freeze for the half the year, but get step increases of 2.65 percent and lane increases the second half, according to the union's offer.

The district offered a hard freeze on salary, continuing their current pay schedule, and no step or lane movement for the first year. Teachers who qualify for lane movement would get a one-time $500 stipend.

For the second year, the district offered a 1.4 percent salary increase, no step increase, but up to three lane movements. And in the third year, the district offered a step increase of 2.65 percent for all teachers and one lane movement.

Both sides differ on teacher retirement benefits as well.

The union is seeking a 6 percent increase over their prior year’s salary in each of the three years preceding retirement. But the board is offering a 6 percent increase in the prior year's salary only for the first year of the contract, then whatever the increase is in the following two years.

Both sides also addressed lump-sum payouts and other retirement benefits.

The board's position is that end-of-service retirement enhancements need to be phased out, or at least reduced significantly, to protect the solvency of the State of Illinois teacher pension program.

"The board believes that teacher salaries, on the whole, have risen to the point where retirement enhancements are no longer needed to compensate for relatively low salaries over a lifetime," according to the district's offer.

The GEA has proposed to maintain the current structure of the retirement plan and benefits outlined in the expired contract, with the exception for retiring teachers who do not opt or qualify for the early retirement option.

School board president Mark Grosso and union president Carol Young were not available for comment Friday because they were in a negotiating session.