Because of a tight school budget, Novi teachers have agreed to take a pay cut again this year.
The teachers' union and Novi Community School District have agreed to a new contract for the 2012-13 school year, in which the teachers will take 2.5 furlough days, resulting in a 1.33 percent pay cut for all teachers. The teachers also took a 1 percent pay cut last year.
The new contract allows 130 of the teachers who receive step raises to still receive their 6-7 percent raise this year, but they will still take the furlough days. These 130 teachers are in their first 11 years of teaching. Novi has approximately 400 teachers in the district.
Novi Superintendent Dr. Steve Matthews said the negotiations, which began in May, went well.
"The teachers were being a very good partner with us. They clearly have their side that need to try to advocate for and they certainly were doing that, but they also recognize that the economic situation in Michigan, while improving, is not the best that it can be, so they were willing to work with us," he said.
Tom Brenner, president of the Novi teacher's union, said he is disappointed but agreed that negotiations went well.
"I feel terrible. Anytime pay ends up being cut, it's not a good feeling," Brenner said. "But the funding from the state has pretty much remained static for almost 10 years now, so I understand the district's predicament."
The teacher's contract allows the district to maintain a 10 percent fund balance, which is a goal set by the Novi Board of Education.
"It's something they refused to discuss. We didn't have much of a choice, really," Brenner said. "We wouldn't have had an agreement, I don't think, if we didn't have this wage reduction."
The net cost to the district with the new contract, including the preservation of step raises and the addition of furlough days, is approximately $35,000.
A statewide trend
The pay cut is not new to Novi teachers.
In the 2011-12 school year, teachers took a 1 percent pay cut and agreed to pay 15 percent toward their health care premiums. Previously, teachers were paying flat dollar amounts toward their premiums, which could be equated to approximately 4.5 percent.
Brenner said Novi is in the same boat as many other districts in Michigan, which continue to receive inadequate funding from the state.
"There's definitely a trend of tightening belts and reducing pay and increasing the cost for insurance, so it's not positive," Brenner said.
Matthews and Brenner both said that future negotiations are difficult to predict at this time, since it is difficult to predict future student enrollment, changes in retirement mandates, and funding from the state government.
"My belief is that we'll continue to find ways to work with teachers and our other employee groups as we move forward because ultimately we're all in this together and we all need to focus on how we can provide the very best education for the students in the district," Matthews said.
Brenner said the teachers feel almost helpless without more funding from the state.
"The most important thing is people need to realize how the state budget affects our district's budget, and how tight it is, and how when the state kind of makes its own decisions what to do with the money, it really does affect what happens here in the classroom locally," he said.
Brenner said he encourages residents to contact Governor Snyder and their state representative to show their support for K-12 funding.