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Evansville teachers to vote on reopening contract

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GINA R. HEINE
December 16, 2011
— Teachers in Evansville will vote early next week on whether to reopen their contract to help the district fill an estimated $1.6 million deficit for next school year.

Members of the Evansville Education Association met after school Thursday to discuss their options. A vote is expected Monday and Tuesday, union President Bill Hartje said.


Teachers at the meeting expressed appreciation for the school board, which settled a new contract with teachers through 2013 in February, he said.


The union, school board and administrators have a history of working well together "to do what we can to make the district the best district," he said.


"That's certainly a challenge with the help we're getting from the state," he said. "We're just talking about how we deal with that. We balance that with the financial ramifications of the kinds of changes that we're looking at."


The EEA represents 154 teachers.


Without concessions, the district would be looking at cutting $1.55 million in salary and benefits and about $50,000 in supplies and materials, which have been cut over the last few years, Superintendent Heidi Carvin said.


"We've given them (EEA) a rough idea of how those cuts would impact different staffing positions," she said.


Potential cuts to full-time equivalent positions could look like this, she said:


-- Early childhood to fifth grade: 11 percent


-- Sixth to 12th grade: 11 percent


-- Special education: 5 percent


-- Administration: 13 percent


-- Other employee groups: 5 percent


It's too early to talk about specific changes if the contract was reopened, Carvin said.


Teachers now are paying half of their retirement contributions and 5 percent of their health insurance premiums, while the salary schedule is tied to the consumer price index.


When the contract was ratified in February, officials assumed the index would increase about 1 percent, but estimates now are about 3 percent, Carvin said.


Other unions in the district have contracts with salary increases of 1 percent, she said.


Rather than make cuts this year, the school board decided to fill this year's deficit of about $600,000 using money from the district's fund balance.


The district also faces a loss in federal aid next year, an increase in general expenses and an estimated 8 percent increase in health insurance costs, Carvin said.


She is meeting next week with administrators in western Rock County and Green County to explore ways to save on health insurance, and union members have volunteered to help find insurance savings, she said.


"We're all hoping to again collaborate to find ways to protect programs and positions," she said.


Even with union concessions, Hartje said he doesn't foresee a scenario where the district doesn't have to cut something.


"Nobody's in a comfortable situation now," he said. "It's just how can we work together to deal with the cards that have been dealt to us."



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