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ECC nearing teacher contract deadline; raises tax levy

Many ElgCommunity College faculty members posted signs like this their doors pledging unity with faculty uniduring contract talks. | File~Sun-Times

Many Elgin Community College faculty members posted signs like this on their doors pledging unity with the faculty union during contract talks. | File~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 14, 2014 12:07PM

ELGIN — The doors of most faculty offices at Elgin Community College now bear signs reading “ECC Faculty Association / Unity,” with the current faculty labor contract is less than three weeks from its expiration date.

But both sides are close-mouthed about how negotiations are going.

In recent years, the faculty and college have agreed to three-year contracts. The current pact expires Dec. 31.

ECC Board Chair Donna Redmer said negotiations began in September, but the two sides have agreed to a “news blackout,” so she could not characterize how talks are going. She said the next negotiating session will be held Saturday.

The negotiations are taking place between a team of administrators and some board member observers on one hand, and a team of teachers led by faculty association vice president Howard Russo on the other.

The student body representative to the board of trustees, Alejandro Molina Hoyos, was quoted by the ECC student newspaper, The ECC Observer, last week as saying, “So far, so good. No big hubbub about anything” regarding the negotiations.

“Everyone is hoping to get done before the contract is over Dec. 31,” Molina Hoyos reportedly told the student newspaper. “The only thing the board really has to approve is the money.”

The faculty association’s Russo could not be reached immediately for comment. Another faculty member said he has heard “through the grapevine” that the talks have been going smoothly.

The board, which is allowed by the Illinois Open Meetings Act to discuss labor negotiations behind closed doors, held a special executive session meeting two weeks ago to discuss labor issues. Members also stayed in the normal closed-session part of their meeting Tuesday night longer than usual, about 90 minutes.

Tax levy going up

In related matters, during its public meeting on Tuesday, the ECC board voted 5-0 to approve a new tax levy that treasurer Sharon Konny expects to bring the college 2.2 percent more operating fund income from taxes and to raise the tax collected next year on a house with a value of $200,000 by about $21.

No one showed up to comment as the board held a public hearing on the levy Tuesday. Trustee Robert Getz, a frequent spending critic, had cast the lone “no” vote when the tentative levy was sent out to be advertised in November. But Getz was absent from this week’s meeting, and the other trustees voted “yes” without further discussion.

Konny said she expects the higher levy to increase the college’s operating fund income from $46.2 million to $47 million. The amount automatically levied to make payments on bonds is not capped by law and will go up more, from $13.3 million to $15.8 million.

However, to make sure the college gets as much of the tax money as legally possible under the state tax cap law, the board officially is asking for a levy of $55 million for its operating funds. That number is about 20 percent more than it received last year and about 17 percent more than is likely to be allowed by the tax cap.

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