Capistrano Unified School District administrators and teachers' union officials gave different signals over whether a settlement is imminent in their monthslong contract negotiations.
The district's negotiating team agreed Wednesday to present the Capistrano Unified Education Assn.'s settlement offer to the Board of Education at its Monday meeting.
The union, which represents the district's 1,200 teachers, is asking for a 3.5% raise with another 1% raise contingent on whether a state law imposing a fee on school districts is overturned. The district has been offering the teachers a 3% raise with an additional 1.5% if the fee is abolished.
The union had been seeking a 6% increase.
Assn. President Ric Stephenson said he is optimistic that a settlement is near. The teachers have been working without a contract since June 30, but there has been no threat of a strike.
"We think the association has taken quite a step (by lowering its demands)," Stephenson said. "But we want to be fair in light of the state budget problems."
But William Eller, the district's associate superintendent of instructional services, said the administration believes that a 3% raise is all the district can afford. He said the union's offer is being taken to the board so it can give the administration guidance on how it wants negotiations to proceed. He pointed out that another bargaining session is scheduled Feb. 13. Eller said that the district will have to give its non-teaching employees the same raise it gives to the teachers. The cost for a districtwide 3% raise would be $2.5 million, he said, and about $3 million for a 3.5% raise.
Eller said the district is already considering a $4-million cut in next year's budget because of reduced state funding. But Stephenson said that is irrelevant.
"We'll deal with next year, next year," he said.