SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City school district and the union representing the district's teachers are nearly $4 million apart on salary increases for the next school year after their first rounds of negotiations.
In its initial proposal on Feb. 4, the Sioux City Education Association called for wage increases totalling nearly $5 million, which includes increasing the base pay by $1,466, giving veteran teachers a $400 increase, and a one-time "overload" payment of $1,200 to all instructors for extra duties related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, the association would maintain the various "steps" and "lanes" in their contract, in which salaries for teachers automatically increase based on years of service and attainment of additional educational levels. The increased cost for the automatic increases for the 2021-22 school year are estimated at about $1.023 million.
In its counter proposal Thursday, district administrators offered to limit wage increases to that $1.023 million, but didn't specify how the dollars should be allocated.
"Should the association decide to use the proposed increase toward movement on steps and lanes, over 60% of our teachers would receive an increase for an additional year of service," Human Resources Department Director Rita Vannatta said at Thursday's session, which was open to the public. "The average salary increase range is from 2.64% to 2.77%."
Vannatta said the district appreciates the work of its teachers and support staff and believes that "they deserve to be fairly compensated for their work." But the district has to consider how declining enrollments will impact next year's budget.
"With a decrease in enrollment of over 200 students, this means a significant loss of funding for our district for the next school year," she said. "We want to make salary increases while still keeping an eye on the reasonable limits we have to work with under our budget."
Including wages and benefits, the district placed the total increase for its proposed package at 1.31 percent, compared to the SCEA’s opening proposal of 5.98 percent.
Currently, a first-year teacher in Sioux City makes $42,640, Vannatta said.
"The SCEA’s opening proposal for a first-year teacher would be $44,117," she said. "A teacher at the top of the salary schedule with a master’s + 30 additional hours currently makes $82,059. SCEA’s opening proposal for a teacher with MA + 30 hours would be $85,432."
Also on Thursday, the district proposed a 22 cents per hour increase for district employees represented by the Sioux City Educational Support Personnel Association, whose members include paraprofessional associates, secretaries and bus assistants.
In its opening proposal on Feb. 4, the SCESPA asked for raises of $3 per hour for the support personnel, who are paid varying wages, with many making in the vicinity of $12 per hour, according to union officials.
The district employs a combined 1,900 teachers and other staff.
The SCEA represents roughly 800 teachers.
The teachers are in the fourth year of a five-year contract that runs through the 2022-23 school year. Wages are the only element to be negotiated for the 2021-22 year contract.
Under state law, the initial contract proposals from local governments and the bargaining groups representing workers must be open to the public. Subsequent negotiation sessions can take place behind closed doors.