Collier County teachers and district leaders remain at odds over salary step increases after the district's most recent offer: to make any step increase subject to negotiations.
The proposal made Monday by Collier County Public Schools Chief Operations Officer Michele LaBute included no salary or step increase for the 2012-13 school year. It was made in response to the teacher union's offer to take two furlough days in exchange for a salary step increase.
"I know this isn't what you want to see," LaBute said to union leaders after presenting the offer. "This is where we think we really need to be in this day and time."
Jonathan Tuttle, executive director of the Collier County Education Association, said in previous years teachers were automatically given a step increase to their salaries after a successful school year. The increases were not negotiated, he said.
Now, teachers "feel like they're getting the rug pulled out from underneath them," Tuttle said.
"Our folks are hurting out there, too," he told district representatives.
LaBute empathized with them, saying both sides want and need more funding for education. This year, the district cut $16.5 million from the budget and eliminated 100 teacher and administrative positions.
"We can't afford automatic recurring dollars," LaBute said.
For several months the district and union have gone back and forth in the negotiations, which this year apply to the entire collective bargaining agreement, up for negotiation every three years. In previous a meeting, the district proposed withholding step increases if it projected a budget deficit for the next three years.
The two sides are expected to set their next meeting date today.