Concessions needed to stem Lake Forest High School shortfall

March 3, 2011

Both the federal government with its $14 trillion deficit, and state governments, many of which have shortfalls of billions of dollars, must make tough choices.

Local governments are not exempt from cost-cutting. It should come as no surprise that our own Lake Forest High School, District 115, is projecting an almost $1 million shortfall by June of this year. A reduction of staff has recently been announced, among other cost-cutting measures.

Recently I read how a projected $1.6 million shortfall next year for Wauconda Unit District 118 all but disappeared with assist from the teachers union. The school board approved a three-year contract with the Wauconda Education Association that froze salaries and benefits and cut stipends for department chairs, facilitators and other for the next two years. The agreement did call for a 3.5 percent salary increase the third year.

It did not take me long to conclude that the District 115 contract is extremely generous. For the most part, District 115 pays between 90 and 100 percent of the individual health care premiums and between 80 and 100 percent of family premiums. Those amounts include dental.

Regarding pensions, a few years ago legislation was passed to try to slow down spiking salaries to build fat pensions. Districts used to give 20-20 percent or 10-10-10 percent salary hikes in the last few years of teaching. Legislation then limited these increases to 6-6-6-6 percent.

The 6-6-6-6 maximum by law is in place for retiring teachers in District 115. To make up for the lost concessions mandated by the law change, the union in District 115, as in many districts, bargained for a “post-retirement lump sum payment.” The lump sum retirement payments to teachers in District 115 range from $12,000 to $34,000.

Those who work at private sector jobs will undoubtedly find the present contract in Lake Forest District 115 to be quite generous. As demonstrated in Wisconsin, once public unions receive concessions through bargaining, both unions and its public sector workers fight tooth and nail to prevent benefits from being taken away.

Shouldn’t District 115 employee be willing to pay more of their health and pension costs from their already-generous salaries, since Lake Forest and Lake Bluff taxpayers are footing their salaries and most of their benefits? Out of 169 fulltime and part-time administrators and teacher employed by District 115, 89 of them earn more than $100,000 per year and another 21 earn salaries in the range of $90,000 to $100,000.

With a $1 million shortfall looming by June, Lake Forest District 115 no longer has the money to afford such generous benefits to its employees. Are the teachers at Lake Forest High School really much better than the teachers in other districts that aren’t compensated so handsomely?

As taxpayers, let Lake Forest District 115 board members know how you feel as they negotiate with the Lake Forest Education Association.

Will board members be taxpayer-friendly? Board President Sharon Golan can be contacted at srgolan@comcast.net. Other board members can be contacted as follows: Marilyn Harlow (marilyn4lfhs@aol.com); Richard Block (blockoflk@yahoo.com); Todd Burgener (trburgener@gmail.com); Jim Carey (JimCarey536@aol.com); John Scribner (Jas@twg.com); and Nicki Snoblin (nsnoblin@gmail.com).

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