Teachers and non-certified staff members within the A-C Central School District could strike at the start of December if negotiations aren’t reached between the district and the ACCEA.
On Monday, the A-C Central Education Association, or ACCEA, declared an impasse in contract negotiations with A-C Central Community Unit School District 262. The ACCEA represents 40 bus drivers, bus monitors, cooks, classroom aides, secretaries and custodians in District 262, and are seeking a wage increase for its members starting at $12.50 to $13.50 an hour. Despite the two sides having met at the bargaining table numerous times since August, no agreements have been made.
In a press release from the ACCEA, the group claims that the district is able to meet their requests without raising taxes, as well as noting the more than $2 million in the district’s savings account.
District 262 Superintendent Tim Page says that while the district does have a little over $2 million in savings, those funds represent the state-recommended amount of cash reserves to be set aside for other purposes.
“The district has a little over $2 million in fund balances that we have put together over the last several years, but that represents 180 days of cash reserves, which is exactly what the State Board of Education recommends schools districts have on hand. Those funds are our only safety net to protect against unexpected costs or late state payments, which have been figuring quite prominently in the news for the last several years. Given the state’s track record, there is a lot of cause for concern that (a lack of state funding) could continue, so that ($2 million) is what we have as a buffer so that we can continue doing business when and if the state doesn’t pay all of their bills in the future,” Page explains.
He also addresses the ACCEA’s argument regarding taxes.
“They’re referenced we don’t have to raise taxes, well that is true if the district is willing to eat into those cash reserves, which is not good practice. I’ve already got an operating budget deficit this year of $80,000 on the table, and that’s assuming that we’re going to get all of last year’s state revenue paid up and all of this year’s promised state revenue. So this school district is already looking at a deficit budget before the raises that (the ACCEA) is requesting,” says Page.
Page breaks down the details of the district’s offer to the ACCEA, which he believes is a very reasonable one.
“The offer that the board has put in front of the teachers and non-certified staff we feel is extremely fair. What we’ve offered them is a three percent raise each of the next three years, so that’s a nine percent raise over the life of the contract. For the teachers, we’ve given them additional money to go towards helping to cover insurance costs, and we’ve offered the non-certified staff a stipend that they would split amongst their teachers in that first year to do the same. So the board feels that our offer is extremely fair,” Page says.
The superintendent explains the extremely negative consequences that are possible if an agreement isn’t reached in the near future.
“The association did file an intent to strike letter just a week or two ago. Since impasse was declared on Monday, there is a timeline that follows now and there will be public postings of each side’s last offer, and those have to be viewable for certain amount of time. Basically we’re looking at about a 28-day waiting period, so about December 5th would be the first day that a walk-out would be possible,” Page explains.
Since two unions recently merged, the ACCEA now represents both teachers and non-certified staff within District 262. And despite the fact that, according to Page, the district has settled on an agreement with the teacher’s side of the association, the negotiation impasse and potential strike includes both non-certified staff members as well as teachers – essentially every employee of District 262 with the exception of the administrators.
According to the ACCEA’s press release, not further bargaining dates have been set at this time, and members of the association plan to seek community feedback regarding these issues.