Utica schools OKs contract with teachers' union

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Utica Community Schools' Board of Education has approved a new contract with the district's teachers, officials said Tuesday.

Utica Community Schools logo

The seven-member board unanimously approved the 2-year contract at its meeting Monday night. One member recused himself from the vote because his wife is with the union.

School district officials said the new labor pact, which includes teachers' wage cuts and changes to their health care coverage, is expected to save the district $9.4 million.

Officials for the union representing the district teachers said the wage cuts total $4.3 million and include five furlough days over the next 18 months as well as other benefits concessions.

Liza Parkinson, president of the Utica Education Association, said the district's administration has to put "their financial house in order.”

“Reducing teacher salaries is a short-term fix, but Utica teachers did what was necessary for the good of the school district," she said Tuesday in a statement. "Now the district must begin the process of making major changes that will provide a long-term solution to these budget difficulties.”

District officials said state lawmakers must act to improve Michigan's school funding system.

“Through the work of the negotiating teams, we have addressed one side of the equation — the expenditure side," Gene Kilda, the school board's president, said in a Tuesday statement. "It is now time for the State of Michigan to address the second side of the equation — revenues.

“Our state lawmakers must realize that the current school funding system is broken and needs to be replaced," he said. "We again call on our community to advocate for their schools by telling lawmakers it is time to fund the true cost to educate a child in Michigan.”

Utica Community Schools is the second largest school district in the state.

Its labor contract with the teachers' union expired in June and covered 1,440 teachers and professionally-certified staff.

Under that contract, new teachers with a bachelor's degree could earn a salary of $39,310 or $40,826 if they had a master's.

Last year, officials said the district's budgeted expenditures outpaced revenue by $8.3 million and its fund balance was $20.7 million and projected to be $12.4 million at the end of the school year.

Also last year, the district laid off about 15 teachers after enrollment dropped by about 500 students. In 2016, the district had 27,735 students.