Updated 10 a.m. Wednesday: All five unions in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District have agreed to give up cost-of-living wage increases and continue with the same contract for the next two years.
Union members, including teachers, custodians, secretaries, food service workers and administrators, received 2.5 percent increases in their pay this year and last year, but voted to eliminate that until 2013 as the district faces budget constraints.
The CHUH School Board approved the measure at its work session Tuesday night.
While the agreement doesn’t necessarily protect staff from layoffs, Superintendent Douglas Heuer said if the district had to let teachers go, he would have had to announce it at Tuesday’s meeting, as he is required to inform them by April 30.
More than offered by the district this year or are leaving, andthat combination has helped save educators from staffing cuts, Heuer said.
However, “We won’t necessarily fill the positions that have been vacated," he added.
Tom Schmida, president of the , said the final vote from his union was 471 to 3 in favor of waiving cost-of-living raises and moving forward with the current contract, which will now expire in 2013.
“This is a way that we can operate in the best interest of our members, and at the same time recognize the financial conditions of the district,” Schmida said, adding that this helps protect teachers from some of the possible , such as inflated health care costs.
The pay freeze will help the district financially as it faces a in Gov. John Kasich's budget proposal.
"It is not written in any agreement that there will be no layoffs," said Scott Gainer, CFO for the district, by e-mail. "With the drastic cuts in state funding, decreased local property tax revenue, and the fact that we will be on the ballot for an operating levy this November, we cannot make any guarantees concerning staffing levels. However, with the extensions agreed to last night, the district is in a much better position to minimize the need for such an action."
Teachers will still receive their regular salary step increases, or raises based on the number of years they have been teaching, Heuer said. After working 14 years, teachers no longer receive the annual increases, so currently two thirds of teachers qualify to get the boost in pay.
"I would like to offer a great thanks to all of the unions for working with us on this and agreeing to two-years pay freeze,” said Eric Coble, board president, after the contract extension passed. Board Member Kal Zucker was not present. “In these economic hard times and with much uncertainty coming out of Columbus, it is a great gift to everyone in both communities … and will allow us to focus on educating students, which is what we should be doing at this point."
Cleveland Heights Patch will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.
Editor's Note: The Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District contacted Cleveland Heights Patch to correct its earlier report that one third of teachers will receive salary step increases. About two thirds, or 63 percent of the teaching staff, will receive salary step increases in fiscal year 2012.