Editorial: It’s time to accept a contractPublished 8:15pm Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Niles Community Schools is in a tough spot right now.
The district’s fund equity is being drained at an alarming rate due mainly to massive cuts in state funding, increased retirement costs and increased insurance costs.
If nothing changes, the district will be $1.2 million in debt in two years, according to the district’s financial manager.
That can’t happen if Niles wants to have a great school system.
How can this be avoided?
The Niles teachers’ union needs to accept the last best contract offer made by the board of education.
Negotiations have been ongoing since January 2011.
With each month that goes by, the district loses more than $200,000 in projected savings.
The district can’t afford to lose any more money.
When a district goes into debt, the consequences can be severe. State aid could be cut off. The district could lose its ability to borrow money. A state-appointed financial adviser could be called in to run the district.
All this would hurt a child’s ability to receive a great education in Niles.
School districts are recommended by the state to have fund equity of 15 percent, although some experts believe 10 percent is an acceptable number.
Niles is around 9 percent and falling fast.
The board of education is asking teachers to take roughly an 8 percent cut in pay in addition to changing their insurance policy.
In January, administrators voluntarily took an 8 percent cut in pay and changed insurance.
Secretaries also took a 2.25 percent pay cut and changed insurance.
It’s time for the teachers to do their part in helping the district stay out of debt.
No one is saying teachers don’t deserve to be compensated well for their work. Teachers are the backbone of the school district: the ones directly responsible for educating our community’s children. They are a huge reason why the district is one of the few in the area to see an increase in enrollment.
However, the board’s last best offer to the teachers is just that — it’s the most the board can afford to give without leading the district down a path toward deficit.
You can’t escape the reality that personnel costs account for just over 80 percent of the school’s budget. Teachers account for about 70 percent of that.
Short of eliminating programs, there is nowhere else to cut the budget.
It would be great if Niles teachers could get paid more, but the district’s current financial situation won’t allow for it.
The sad truth is the district is losing money and will continue to do so unless something changes.
Teachers have the power to make that change.
This editorial represents the views of the editorial board.