The district still says they don't have enough money to afford what the teachers are asking for. Can other districts find themselves in the same spot. Many school districts across the state are facing the same issues as Marquette decreasing enrollment which leads to lower funding, and ultimately have an effect on wage increases for teachers.
Over the last decade NICE community schools has seen a steady increase to student enrollment. This year they will have 1,200 kids between Westwood High School and The Aspen Ridge School.
"We received some good luck in terms of an uptick in student numbers. Where we grew a little bit as well as some additional funding from the state of Michigan, which is really important to a school district in Michigan, how much the per pupil foundation allowance is," said Brian DeAugustine, superintendent Nice Community Schools.
Their per pupil funding is at 7,200, and their budget is at $10.9 million. While the district is doing well, they have also endured tough times. From 2009 to 2011 the district made several administrative cuts and they couldn't afford to give high wage increases to their teachers and support staff. It took them around two months to settle on a contract.
"Both at the building principal level and the administrative offices, and superintendentâ??s office. So, that helped save money and personnel costs in terms of salaries and benefits. Then, both bargaining units both the teachers and the support staff services took very modest raises," DeAugustine said.
With staffing cuts, modest raises, and saving as much money as possible while maintaining their programs they have been able to increase their general fund from $80,000 to now $800,000. The district has also been able to achieve that savings by community support through a sinking fund that's helped maintain their buildings. Superintendent Brian DeAugustine says it takes discipline and understanding between all parties during tough economic times.
"It's just a matter of finding out where the numbers are and what each side can live with. What can the district afford. What do the teachers feel is fair compensation for the work they do. There's always a middle ground in there somewhere it's just takes time, patience, and effort to get it done," DeAugustine adds.
Teacher at Nice Community Schools are currently under a three year contract with a 2% increase each year plus their step wage increase.