The Madison School Board voted 6-1 in June to adopt the district’s $561.3 million preliminary budget for next school year, which included the 3% base wage increase.
Negotiations began in May with MTI requesting the 4.7% increase — the annual inflationary amount and the maximum allowed in bargaining under state law. The district offered a 2% increase — not including additional wage increases tied to experience and educational attainment, known as steps and lanes.
In the budget adopted by the district in June, that base wage increase offered by the district had grown to 3% for all staff through bargaining, along with a 2% increase specifically tied to experience and educational attainment for teachers.
The salary schedule change must occur through the Employee Handbook revision process, which is technically a unilateral decision by the School Board. The district and MTI have a committee to “meet and confer” on potential Handbook changes, but it is not considered a bargaining session, and therefore allowed under Act 10.
“Since Act 10, MMSD has voluntarily participated in meet-and-confer collaboration with MTI,” Oppenheimer wrote. “Only in the last few years has MMSD begun to circumvent the meet-and-confer process for resolving issues outside the scope of legal bargaining.”
LeMonds said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that the district believed it needs to finalize the base wage increase to avoid “bargaining” on the Employee Handbook change as the two wage changes become conflated.
“We can’t do those simultaneously because it gets pulled into the negotiation,” LeMonds said. “The negotiated piece, which is base wage, has to be finalized before we can move on to that.”
District general legal counsel Sherry Terrell-Webb told board members that Wednesday’s vote “officially closes out negotiations on base wage,” and suggested that the administration could now prepare a recommendation for the board on the salary schedules.
“I know some believe that we should have continued negotiating with MTI,” Terrell-Webb said. “However, because the board has indicated that 3% was its best and final offer, to continue to negotiate knowing that we would not be able to make a change to this offer could be considered negotiating in bad faith.”
The board also approved the “steps and lanes” increases at Wednesday’s meeting, which reward staff for longevity and educational attainment. That amounts to a 2% increase for the average employee, the district says, but MTI has pointed out that it means zero increase for some.
In recent years, the district has either agreed to the maximum increase early or waited until closer to the final budget approval to get board approval for the change.
In 2019, the district included an increase up to 1.5% in its preliminary budget in June but continued negotiating with MTI. In a September vote ahead of the final budget approval in October, the board increased it to the maximum 2.44%.
In 2020 and 2021, the final base wage increase offer vote took place in October and September, respectively. In three prior years — 2016, 2017 and 2018 — base wage approval came earlier, but it was at the maximum allowed percentage under law.
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