The Cherokee Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom presented the District's initial labor contract proposal to the Cherokee Education Association Monday night.
Essentially, the District's proposal included a 1.8 percent increase to cover a mandatory hike of the District's contribution to IPERS (Iowa Public Employees Retirement System), and an estimated premium increase in the cost of insurance.
The language in the District's proposal outlined maintaining the current salary schedule and freezing vertical advancement. The District also agrees to continue to fully fund health insurance premiums, as well as fulfill its obligation to increase employer contributions to IPERS from 6.95 percent to 8.07 percent, equalling an estimated 1.8 percent increase.
The CEA has initially proposed salary and benefits increases totaling 5-percent, which amounts to an estimated $257,000, according to CEA Representatives Tim Stoneking, James DeVos, and Amy Sarchet.
After the CEA presented its contract proposal on Jan. 17 for the next Fiscal Year and representatives explained various items included in the contract, Chalstrom responded by saying that the District faces an estimated $56,000 shortfall in State funding next year due to declining enrollment, and adding that total to the CEA's proposed $257,000 would total an estimated $300,000 extra to be covered in the 2011-12 budget.
Chalstrom said at an estimated $50,000 per position (salary and benefits) that would mean the District would have to cut six certified positions to compensate for the proposed $300,000 budget increase, all things staying equal.
Chalstrom said Monday night that the District's proposal will cost $85,500, and factoring in an estimated $56,000 to be lost in State funds next fiscal year due to enrollment declines, that total ascends to $141,500.
"Given the bleak budget and enrollment realities, it will be difficult for the Cherokee Community School District to offer competitive salary and benefit increases without making deep reductions that could impact its ability to offer its current level of programming," explained Chalstrom. He went on to say that the CEA proposal of 5 percent would cost the District approximately $290,000, and if such a settlement were extended to all employees of the district (not just the teachers' association), the cost would climb to $397,000.
Chalstrom also emphasized that newly elected Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has proposed a budget calling for 0 percent Allowable Growth for Iowa school districts for FY 2012 and FY 2013, and that Cherokee's enrollment drop of 37 students have combined to negatively impact the District's budget.
"The District values the work of all its employees, but the foundation for increased student achievement rests with the teaching staff," said Chalstrom. "This is not a discussion of value, but rather of scarcity of resources in an extraordinary (economical) time."
The CEA and District will now review the respective proposals and then begin collective bargaining negotiations in closed sessions until a contract agreement is reached.