The Belgrade School Board has a counter-offer ready to discuss with teachers, but trustees will not release the details of the proposal until the entire Belgrade Education Association negotiation team is on hand to hear the deal, Board Chair Lance Voegele said Wednesday.
The two sides have failed to reach a contract agreement for more than a year, but both Voegele and union president Joe Rossman said the existence of a counter-offer is a good sign.
Rossman said the board's move will most likely break the current negotiation log jam.
"We are hopeful and think it's great progress," Rossman said.
Both sides cannot meet until the union's bargaining leader, Catherine Carracciolo, returns from a trip to Africa, Voegele and Rossman said.
The current deal on the table from the board of trustees is a 1.5 percent raise to teachers' base pay for the last school year and a one percent hike for the upcoming year. Teachers have asked for 2 percent and 1.5 percent.
According to district figures, a 1.5 percent hike to base pay would translate to an average salary increase of $1,860 for full-time teachers. The proposed 2009-2010 pay schedule has a starting salary of about $31,189 and a top salary of $64,073. The range of the proposed salary increase is from a high of $5,180 to a low of $569.
A 1 percent hike in the second year of the contract (2010-2011) would boost the starting salary to about $31,500 and the top salary to $64,714, according to district records. The average salary increase would be $1,405 and the range is from $2,052 to $386.
One of the main sticking points for teachers, though, has been rising insurance premiums, union representatives have said. In the past two years, employee contributions have grown by about 35 percent. They are expected to go up another 33 percent in the coming school year. The problem, according to the union, is that the district has not increased its contribution in five years.
District officials were shopping around for cheaper policies, but a committee consisting of a cross-section of district employees to tackle the issue voted to keep the same state-run plan, district clerk Jay Bates said Wednesday. In turn, trustees unanimously adopted the committee's recommendation Wednesday.
Board members have said teachers could apply the raises offered to offset rising insurance costs rather than for salary increases, but union officials said if teachers do that, then not all teachers will get a raise.
Carraciolo returns from overseas July 9 and both sides will set a meeting time soon after. A final contract will have to be ratified both by union members and the school board, but teachers are difficult to round up in the summer, Rossman said.