Cost estimates, salaries highlight sticking points in QPS union - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Cost estimates, salaries highlight sticking points in QPS union talks

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QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) -

The details of negotiations between Quincy Public Schools and the union were revealed in public postings.

According to documents posted on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board website, both sides have met a total of 16 times since negotiations began April 26 of 2016. Five of those meetings were with a federal mediator. 

After several months of meetings, the Quincy Federation, which represents QPS union members, voted to strike on Dec. 16.

In the public posting, QPS says contracts expired for custodians and food service workers on June 30, for bus drivers on June 15 and for teachers and paraprofessionals on Aug. 9.

An offer and cost summary document filed by QPS shows the district is offering a total salary/wage increase of $402,908.78. That includes an average increase of 1.39 percent for all union employees.

  • Teachers: 1.20%
  • Head Start Teacher: 1.62%
  • Paraeducator - Special Education: 1.62%
  • Paraeducator Computer/Library: .042%
  • Paraeducator - Deaf Interpreter: 1.62%
  • School Support Personnel: 1.62%
  • Cafeteria: 2.96%
  • Custodians: 2.61%
  • Non-Cerified Misc: 5.08%
  • Drivers: 1.57%
  • Secretary: 1.62%

The board's proposal also includes money for an additional planning period for junior high teachers, four special ed coordinator stipends, and a new rate for extra transportation assignments.

Including insurance costs, the board said the total increase is $980,455.65.

According to the board's filing, the union's proposal is seeking a 3.2% increase, which would total $1,562,849.88.

Documents show the union is asking for a 1.45% increase across the board for all union employees. That also includes STEP increases. The union said the total increase in its proposal is $990,127.98.

"We are currently seeking retention of current benefits and language from the individual contracts so that no members are harmed in the merger," the union said.

Board president Sayeed Ali wouldn't go into specifics Monday on the discrepancy regarding total cost increases in the board's report.

"I don't want to speak for necessarily where they're coming up with their numbers," Ali said. "We do feel confident in the numbers we have. Our district's treasurer, who happens to be a CPA, has walked us through the numbers."

Union President Jen Drew said the district is lumping in all district employees.

"They're putting in all that salary information into this proposal, versus just the employees that would be covered by this contract," Drew said. "So I think that is where the big discrepancy is coming from."

The union said in the documents that employees have seen an increase in workload and expectations over the last few years.

"This (increase) will assist in building a culture that recognizes and rewards the dedication and excellence of our staff," the district said. "We must offer salary schedules that are competitive."

The school district cites financial restraints in the posting. The district said it saw over $1.3 million in deficit spending during fiscal year 2016.  The district said factors contributing to the deficit included a more than $4.4 million shortfall in revenue. It cut expenditures by $3,344,939, but the district still had expenses totaling $1,314,097 more than received.

Because of deficit spending, the district said it depleted cash reserves to the point where it could only operate for a month on those funds.

"Based on the audited numbers, (Quincy Public Schools) was found to have only enough cash on hand to operate 31 days," the district said.

The union also said items in its proposal can help with the financial issues the district is facing.

"We have offered language items which would lead to cost savings for the district and we have continued to problem solve ways to decrease district's cost," the union said. "This would lead to effective, cost-saving measures going forward."

Several language items also need to be ironed out as the potential strike day of January 13 comes closer. Drew says that doesn't necessarily mean they'll walk off the job then.

"If we had another meeting scheduled for the 17th or 19th and we were hopeful we would move forward, then we would again keep going to school and keep meeting," Drew explained.

Ali feels paying the staff what they deserve and keeping costs low is difficult to manage.

"We know what our employees are doing on a day-to-day basis, but at the same time there's feasibility involved," Ali said.

Both sides are scheduled to meet again Wednesday, Jan. 4 and hope to get closer to a final deal.

"I think that will be the first step, is both sides sitting down and we come to an agreement on what type of funds are available," Ali added.

"I'm just hopeful we can get it resolved before the 13th," Drew said.

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You can read proposal details from both sides below:

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