District 97 Teachers Approve Salary Freeze
Move designed to garner support from voters before April referendum.
The union representing Oak Park Elementary District 97 voted Tuesday to accept a salary freeze, regardless of the results of the April referendum question seeking to raise property taxes.
District 97 faces a near $6 million budget hole annually without a tax increase, meaning major cuts could lie ahead to district programs and personnel.
The one year wage freeze would help preserve some of the programs outlined earlier for cuts, said Supt. Al Roberts. School officials said the move is expected to save roughly $1 million in the 2011-2012 school year.
The referendum, which will be on the April 5 ballot, asks taxpayers to consider a permanent increase of about $374 on a typical $10,000 tax bill.
“I deeply respect that this was a difficult decision for our teachers to have,” Roberts said. “By setting that example, we’re very hopeful that our citizens too will sacrifice by getting to the polls and voting for a tax increase in April.”
Oak Park Teachers’ Association President Sue Tresselt announced the teacher union's decision at Tuesday night’s school board meeting at Beye Elementary School.
Asked about the mood of teachers during Tuesday's vote, Tresselt said there was trepidation.
“There was just worry for their profession as a whole, worry for our district,” she said.
Tresselt said OPTA members wanted to avoid reduce an estimated $5.7 million in planned cuts to teaching positions and programs — including the elimination of elementary art classes, middle school sports, and the CAST and BRAVO performing arts programs — if the April 5 referendum fails.
“I hope that the administration and the members of the board of education acknowledge that the vote for and acceptance of the wage freeze is a real sacrifice for the members of our organization,” she said.
Tresselt also said she hopes the move will resonate positively with voters in their decision on whether they will support a tax hike.
“It is really important to us to work collaboratively, not just with the administration and the board of education, but also with the community,” she said.
At the board meeting, the move certainly impressed the administration.
“This shows a commitment to the education programs of Oak Park, and most importantly to the kids of Oak Park,” Roberts said.