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home : news : local   May 24, 2016

7/24/2013 10:26:00 AM
Strike looms at Ottawa High

OTTAWA — Ottawa Township High School and its teacher’s union appear to be far away from bridging the gap in contract negotiations as the strike clock ticks down.
The Ottawa Township High School Education Association may declare a strike on or after Aug. 9.
Both sides of the contract dispute released publicly their final contract offers.
Each party proposed a three-year contract to succeed the contract that expired in August, 2012. Since August, 2012 the members of the OTHSEA have continued to receive the same salary and benefits and the same contractual conditions as the expired contract.

OTHSEA final offer
- Base salary increases of 0 percent, 1.9 percent, and 1.9 percent over three years. In the second and third years of the contract they are also requesting step and lane movements. Step movement is an additional 5 percent of the starting base salary of $35,633.35. This equates to $1,781.67 for each employee that receives a step in addition to any base increase.
- Family insurance contributions remain at 10 percent of the cost of coverage and are in the fixed dollar amounts of $50, $60, and $70 a month for single coverage. It has proposed to increase the insurance caps for family coverage, which are in place to protect the employee from extreme single-year increases, and which have not been reached or of consequence since they were established in the expired contract.
- No change in the post-retirement benefits or pension contributions. 
- Sick days unused by retirees be used to replenish the 250-day sick day bank to be accessed for extended illnesses and that active employees provide no contribution.
OTHSEA members state their proposals are either cost neutral in the case of pension contributions, employee health care and post-retirement health care, and that the compensation increases requested will result in an overall net savings for the district due to the retirements that occurred in 2012-2013, or will increase the revenue for the district in the case of their insurance contribution proposals.

OTHS final offer
-No increase in employee compensation or expense for the school year just concluded. In future years, the proposal provides fixed dollar increases in compensation in the final two years of the contract with increases in employee insurance contributions during those years.
- Reduce post-retirement insurance benefits for spouses and dependents and maintain the board’s payment of employee retirement contributions at the current percentage.
- Insurance contribution increases on all employees to 13 percent of the board’s cost in 2013-14, and 14 percent in 2014-2015, meaning that the board will continue to pay 87 percent and 86 percent of the cost for each year, respectively. This is contrasted to the current contractual contributions of a fixed $50 per-month for single coverage, and 10 percent of the cost of coverage for families, coupled with a shift to a four-tier cost structure, establishing single plus child/children and single plus spouse categories, to reduce the employee contribution in those coverage categories and more equitably allocate costs among those with the current family coverage.
-Exclude the $350 single deductible and $700 deductible for family coverage from the employee’s out-of-pocket exposure. The board currently pays 100 percent of the insurance costs for retirees, their spouses, and their dependants until the retiree reaches the age of 65, and has proposed eliminating payment for dependants in the second year of the contract and for spouses in the third year, while maintaining employee coverage.
-Maintain the current number of sick days per employee at 17 while continuing to allow for the accumulation of the sick days, but requiring employees that wish to additionally have access to the district’s sick bank to personally contribute one sick day per year.
OTHS board members state they believe its proposed contract is appropriate based upon the current levels of compensation and benefits of the OTHSEA members relative to others within their profession. The board also stated their proposal generally maintains the current compensation levels and benefits of the faculty and is necessary to preserve the financial health of the district and its taxpayers.
“Unfortunately these assertions do not consider the impact of increased health care expense, both for covering current employees as well as retirees, and that pension contribution expenses increase as compensation increases,” according to the board’s statement.
Board members dispute the OTHSEA assertion that the district will realize approximately $720,000 of savings in the second year of the contract due to the retirement of several teachers at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Board members stated this is not an accurate representation of the district’s overall expenses. Board members stated the district is responsible for paying 100 percent of all health insurance costs for nine retirees and their spouses and dependents.
Additionally, the district has hired seven replacements with a range of experience and education levels.  Excluding the salary increase requested, and taking into account the retirements, the district is projecting a deficit of $3.4 million for fiscal year 2013-14.
School district expenses are approximately 129 percent of 2006-07 levels and revenues are similar to 2006-07 levels. The district has experienced a deficit of $3.25 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which ended on June 30. As noted, the district projects a $3.4 million deficit for the 2013-14 fiscal year and projects a $3.3 million deficit for the final year of the proposed contract next fiscal year.
Specifically, the board proposal provides for no change in compensation for 2012-2013 school year and proposed waiving the 2012-13 contractual increase in employee insurance contributions.  The board paid an additional $1,840, compared to 2011-12, for each of the employees receiving family coverage in 2012-2013.
In 2013-14 the board proposes a $713 stipend, which is eligible for pension calculations and benefits for each employee, and a $1,426 stipend to be added to each employee’s 2012-2013 compensation for the third year of the contract.

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