The Southwest Licking Education Association agreed to accept a pay freeze for the 2010-11 school year.

The Southwest Licking Education Association agreed to accept a pay freeze for the 2010-11 school year.

Southwest Licking school board members voted at a special meeting Thursday, June 3, to extend the teachers union's negotiated contract to June 30, 2011.

It is an extension of the contract that went into place July 1, 2008, that offered teachers a 2.5-percent base raise during the 2008-09 year and a 2-percent raise during the 2009-10 school year.

Superintendent Forest Yocum said the only difference in the extended contract is the pay freeze.

"With our current budget situation, that is good news for us," he said.

Yocum said district administrators have been working closely with the education association, which represents about 250 teachers, nurses, guidance counselors, speech therapists and tutors.

"The union was very willing to work with us right from the beginning, when our treasurer made the statement that there is just not any money," Yocum said.

Because the two sides did not have to renegotiate the contract, the district also saved money on attorney and mediator fees.

"We are very appreciative we don't have to have those expenses to deal with, either," Yocum said.

Though union members will not receive a base-salary increase next school year, they will still receive step increases, which compensate employees based on their education and years of experience.

According to the negotiated contract, a teacher entering the district with five years of experience and a bachelor's degree would earn $41,346. After five years of training, that teacher's salary would increase to $43,586.

With a master's degree, that same teacher would receive $46,514.

Yocum said the district's five-year forecast, which was completed for the Ohio Department of Education in October, reflected the base-salary freeze.

"The money just simply isn't there," he said.

Board member Cindy Zaino said it is a good fix for now.

"If a levy does not pass, we will have to reconsider health insurance and all of those issues," she said.