Friday, April 17, 2009

Teachers to vote on salary freeze

School district proposes one-year recess


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Joni Cashman, art teacher at Woodside Elementary School, gets supplies in order for the start of a day. Teachers in the Blaine County School District are facing a request from the district to have their salaries frozen for the next year. Photo by David N. Seelig

Members of the Blaine County Education Association will likely vote later this month on whether or not to accept a one year salary freeze as proposed by the Blaine County School District.

Association President Mark Sauvageau said Wednesday that it's not clear at this point what teachers think of the proposal, but that a vote will likely take place within the next few weeks.

"Our association right now is preparing to discuss the issue and will vote on what is best for the teachers, the school district and the community," said Sauvageau, a teacher at Hailey Elementary School.

The Education Association serves as the bargaining unit for teachers in the school district. Contract negotiations are conducted every two years. Sauvageau said that past negotiated increases have averaged about 4 percent.

District Superintendent Jim Lewis said that the salary structure negotiated with the Education Association is also applied two all district employees, including administrators.

Lewis met with teaching staffs at each of the district schools during the past two weeks to explain the reasons for the proposal.

"I've asked the teachers to take a recess for a year until we see where this economy is going to go," Lewis said earlier this week. "It's a little touchy situation, and I think it's going to go fine."

The Blaine County School District's general fund budget for the current fiscal year is about $57 million.

The district is better positioned than many others in Idaho to absorb a state funding cut. The district receives about 30 percent of its funding from the state, whereas some districts rely on the state for as much as 95 percent of their funding.

"It is ugly elsewhere," Lewis said.

Lewis said the salary freeze was proposed because of economic uncertainty and because the district stands to lose between $500,000 and $850,000 in state funding for the next school year.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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