Lawrence school board negotiators Wednesday made a first offer that would freeze teacher pay for next school year.
“It’s not to say anything about how we feel about teachers. It only has to do with the budget times that we have,” said Frank Harwood, the board’s chief negotiator. “After cutting $4.6 million and trying to save as many jobs as we could, we don’t feel like we can make an offer for increasing salaries.”
Lawrence Education Association negotiators didn’t formally respond, but Lois Orth-Lopes, the LEA negotiations chairwoman, called it a first offer and said her side needed to discuss its counteroffer. “We recognize that times are really tight financially, but we still need to get the best that we can for staff, especially movement on the salary schedule,” she said. “We have teachers that have taken classes to move across the schedule horizontally, and we’re obviously going to propose that they get their movement.”
Last year, the two sides agreed the board would add $523,000 to spread among the district’s salary schedule for 2009-2010, but Wednesday’s offer would mean all teachers’ salaries would stay at the same level for 2010-2011.
The state’s budget crisis forced board members in March to cut $4.6 million, including not renewing contracts for more than 30 teachers. As part of the cuts, school and district administrators will take five furlough days as part of saving $100,000.
Board negotiators did offer Wednesday to contribute $497,000 more for 2010-2011 to cover an expected 14 percent increase in health insurance costs on the single base plan for teachers. Employees must pay to upgrade plans or to insure family members, and costs for those plans are also expected to jump 14 percent.
The two sides are to return to the negotiating table at 7 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.