Then and Now: Northville Teacher Contract Talks Catch Up with Financial Reality

2009 contract’s 6 to 8 percent annual raises no longer part of discussions

The Northville School District shows how negotiations with teachers’ unions have changed dramatically. A district so financially distressed that it has left open the possibility of an emergency manager taking over asked in June for teachers to take a 9.25 percent salary reduction with no wage increases for the next two years, according to the Detroit News. The newspaper reports that the teacher’s union responded with an offer of full wages and a 1.5 percent pay cut for the next two years.

Compare this to 2009, when the concept of teacher’s concessions was completely different. At issue was not whether there would be raises, but who would get them and how big they would be.

The district approved a teacher’s union contract that would run from Oct. 2008 through Aug. 2011. The teachers’ union and administration agreed to a separate salary schedule for teachers hired before Nov. 2008 and those hired after 2008. Kim Young, the Michigan Education Association representative for the Northville teachers, said teachers hired after 2008 saw less of a salary increase than those hired before 2008.

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That’s true, according to a review by Michigan Capitol Confidential, but not by much. Teachers hired before 2008 and after 2008 both ended up with the same salary after 12 years. The difference was how fast they got there.

For example, from the 2009-10 school year, through 2010-11, the just completed school year, teachers hired before 2008 saw salary increases ranging from 3.0 to 8.4 percent. Teachers hired after 2008 saw salary increases ranging from 6.1 to 6.8 percent over the same period.

Rising salaries have played a part in the financial woes of the district. Salaries, not including insurance benefits, accounted for 61.2 percent of general fund expenditures in 2009-10, according to the district’s website. The school had $40.8 million in salary expense with a total general fund expenditure of $66.6 million.

Superintendent Mary Kay Gallagher said the district would have a $12 million deficit over the next two years and that its fund balance has dropped to $1.5 million. The school’s total general fund expenditure in 2009-10 was $66.8 million, meaning the fund balance accounts for just 1.7 percent of total general fund spending.

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