Hilliard teachers have agreed to a one-year contract extension with a salary freeze, it was announced at Monday's (Sept. 27) board of education meeting.

Hilliard teachers have agreed to a one-year contract extension with a salary freeze, it was announced at Monday's (Sept. 27) board of education meeting.

The extension includes a freeze on step increases the teachers would normally receive in September 2011, until a new contract is approved.

"There are other school systems that will freeze their base (salary), but won't touch their steps, so this is unusual that they agreed to freeze their steps as well," district spokeswoman Carrie Bartunek said.

The agreement between the Hilliard Education Association and the Hilliard City School District will be effective Jan. 1, 2011.

"We're aware of what the district's finances are," said HEA President Rick Strater. "We felt it was the right time to take this action. The administration, school board and HEA got together and it results in a one-year extension. Given the local and national economy, it seemed like the correct thing to do."

"This is a big deal for the HEA to come through with this," said school board President Andy Teater. "I believe we're the only district in central Ohio that's had this type of wage concession without first having multiple levies go down. It's really going to help us maintain the great education throughout the next year."

The union of nearly 1,200 members voted on the contract extension last Wednesday and Thursday (Sept, 22-23).

"It passed in every building," Strater said.

The teachers' current contract expires in December.

"We didn't ever really have negotiations," Strater said. "We became aware of the district's financial situation last spring. HEA bargaining members and (district administrators) met several times. We ran the five-year forecast through the Ohio Education Association financial analysis team. They concurred with the forecast. We worked out some language pieces back and forth."

The freeze in pay will save the district a total of $1.35-million in the next year. It also buys time for an anticipated levy in 2011.

"If we're going to be on the ballot in May, we need to make a decision by January," Teater said.

"You don't know who the governor's going to be, you don't know what the next two-year biennium budget is going to be, you don't know if or when or how big the next levy is going to be," Strater said. "This basically gives us a year to make those unknowns known."

Strater, who has taught in the district for 34 years, said, "This is the first time that I can remember in over 20 years that there's not been a three-year contract. These are unusual times."