South-Western City Schools Board of Education members on April 22 unanimously accepted an offer from the district's teachers union to forego a salary increase for the next year.

South-Western City Schools Board of Education members on April 22 unanimously accepted an offer from the district's teachers union to forego a salary increase for the next year.

With that action, taken during a special board meeting, all 2,500 employees of the district have agreed to a salary freeze.

Superintendent Bill Wise and Treasurer Hugh Garside led the no-raise trend when they made the offer to defer their salary increases in February.

Shortly afterward, the school board accepted similar offers from the school district's administrators and non-teaching staff unions.

Members of the South-Western Education Association, the district's teachers union, will extend their current contract with the school district until June, 2010.

"I am delighted that our teachers have taken this action," school board president Cathy Johnson said. "They recognize the difficulty that all our residents have had financially."

The last time school board members approved an increase in base teacher salaries was 2007.

Historically, salary increases have been about 2 percent.

Every 1 percent of salary increases the district avoids translates into $1.2-million saved, Garside said.

"We want to help out taxpayers as much as we can by stretching the dollars as much as we can," Garside said. "I think everyone involved realized it was for the long-term health of the district."

The school district has placed Issue 15, an 8.3-mill, four-year operating levy, on the May 5 ballot.

Although employees have agreed to no base salary increases, about 1,200 employees will receive step increases by September.

Employees earn step increases to their salaries over time, similar to wage schedules of state and military employees.

Garside said the district spends about 2 percent of its annual budget on step increases.

The district will spend nearly $2.4 million on step increases this year.