District 58 school board

District 58 officials agreed to new contracts with its teachers and maintenance staff. (Dawn Rhodes, Chicago Tribune)

Downers Grove elementary school teachers and maintenance workers agreed to new employment contracts this week that will bump up salaries and increase some pensions over the next four years.

The Grade School District 58 school board ratified the agreements between the district and the unions June 9.

The contract with the Downers Grove Elementary Education Association covers more than 330 teachers, nurses, counselors and social workers. Base salaries for those employees will be increased by 1.5 percent in 2014-2015, then 0.5 percent, 1.5 percent and 1.4 percent in the subsequent three years. Certified staff will get bigger actual pay bumps depending on where they land in the district's salary schedule, officials said.

The contract goes into effect in August and expires in 2018.

The full texts of the contracts was not immediately available Monday.

"Ultimately, it was a positive experience that allowed us to collaboratively balance our need to remain fiscally responsible and to offer the district financial stability with our need to continue to attract and retain high quality teachers and to support the wide variety of excellent education programs and services of District 58," Supt. Kari Cremascoli said in a statement.

The school board voted 5-1 to accept the contract with Board Member John Miller opposing. Board Vice President John Cooper was absent.

"Both parties agree that strong communities are built around strong schools," union Co-President Marla Gilbert said in a statement. "Downers Grove has highly qualified teachers who will continue to provide quality programs to District 58 students. This agreement maintains this priority for the students, parents and teachers of Downers Grove District 58."

The new contract has the same provision as its current edition, which requires teachers to submit a four-year notice of their intent to retire, then provides for 6 percent salary increases in each of their final years with the district. Miller called this component a "poison pill," echoing his criticism of a similar feature in a contract for three retiring principals that was approved in May.

"I cannot vote for any contract that has a pension spike in it," Miller said. "The first thing you learn is that when the ship is sinking, don't add more water to it. You can't give 6 percent raises in each of the last four years and put people into a pension system that is already billions of dollars in the hole. Stop promising benefits we cannot afford."

The board approved the contract with the Downers Grove Custodial Maintenance Association, which represents full- and part-time custodians, maintenance workers and pony drivers. All members present supported the deal.

That agreement will bump up starting salaries by 2 percent in each of the four years. Pay raises for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years are set at 3 percent, while raises for the following two years will be tied to the Consumer Price Index, officials said.

The terms also limit retirement benefits at 6 percent in the last year of work with the district. The current contract, which expires at the end of June, increased a retiree's salary between $3,000 and $5,000 in their final year, depending on their years of employment.

Geoff Neustadt, a maintenance mechanic who also sits on the Downers Grove village council, helped represent the union in negotiations.

"We appreciate our jobs very much," Neustadt told the board. "I think we have a great, fair contract for everybody in our association and we look forward to another four great years with District 58."

cdrhodes@tribune.com

@rhodes_dawn