While state mediators have required the two entities to meet again today in a last-ditch negotiation effort, BTA President Danielle Storey made it clear that her teachers were ready for the next step. "We took the strike vote; we already have authorization to strike.
"Once the mediator feels there is nowhere else to go, they will certify us for fact-finding (the first step in the strike process)," said Storey. Since that process takes months, Storey's best guess for an actual strike date would be the beginning of the 2007-08 school year.
As of press time Tuesday, BUSD Superintendent Tom Myer could not be reached for comment.
While Storey said she is not at liberty to discuss what went on during the May 4 negotiations with the district, she did add that she's still hopeful that BTA and the district could reach an agreement today.
Storey said that before the May 4 negotiation, the district did offer to give the teachers a 2.5-percent raise this year and another 3-percent raise next year, but only if the teachers agreed not to renegotiate again next year.
"The salary increase offered by the district would have been eaten up by hefty out-of-pocket payments we'd be forced to make for our health care (in 2008)," Storey said in an earlier interview. "Our teachers are so concerned about health benefits they are willing to take a vote to authorize a strike - it's that serious!"
Another element of contention among BTA members is the amount of money the district holds in its reserve fund. Storey said that by law, the district is only required to maintain a 3-percent reserve.
She also claimed that BUSD teachers are upset that the school board has maintained a 5-percent reserve fund, 2 percent above the state-mandated amount, yet the teachers are being asked to gobble up next year's 3-percent raise in order to afford the expected increase in their healthcare premiums.
Storey said that each year, the district ends the year with an excess of funds ranging between five and six figures. But, she said, "He (Myer) says, 'There is no money.'" She added that in the 12 years she has worked for the district, it has never needed to dip into the reserve fund.
Despite its small size, the Byron school district loses a number of teachers each year to neighboring school districts that offer better compensation and benefit packages.