Acknowledging the financial stress on Northridge Local Schools, the district's teachers have agreed to forego a pay increase for the coming year.

Acknowledging the financial stress on Northridge Local Schools, the district's teachers have agreed to forego a pay increase for the coming year.

During Monday's board of education meeting, the board approved a collective bargaining agreement extension with the Northridge Education Association (NREA).

Treasurer Felicia Drummey said the teachers union approached the administration, offering to skip any wage increases.

"They're committed to helping the district stay solvent," Drummey said. "In times like this, the community should recognize their teachers who have also sacrificed."

The current collective bargaining agreement in effect July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2009 has been extended for one year until June 30, 2010. All terms, conditions and language will remain unchanged, with the 2008-009 salary schedule staying in effect for the duration of the extension.

The NREA understands the dire situation of the district's budget, said Janet Kelly, NREA president.

"We are aware that there is a need to find savings in all the district's budget areas," she said. "Since our goal is to preserve educational programs to help the district's students have an outstanding education, we proposed to the board that we renew our current contract, which means in part that we retain the same salary schedule as this school year."

The contract extension is one way teachers can express their dedication to the Northridge students and their education, Kelly said.

Since passing May's emergency operating levy is essential to the district's ability to maintain its educational programs at the current level, and since the levy campaign must be run totally on donations, the NREA also contributed $1,000 from dues to the levy fund. In addition, most of the teachers personally donated at least $25, Kelly said.

The Northridge district was declared in fiscal caution on March 20 by the Ohio Department of Education, based on the possibility the district will end the 2009 fiscal year with a deficit, with growing deficits in ensuing years.

Drummey is now working with an ODE representative on a monthly basis to monitor financial conditions.

"Part of the monitoring isn't just looking at finances, but they look at cash receipts," she said. "They look at what was projected and what was collected. The purpose of monitoring is so they can gain a better understanding of our operations."

In the most recent review, Drummey said the state noticed a 2 percent decrease in salary and 3 percent reduction in benefits as well as a reduction in force.

"We know we are understaffed in total by 31 staff members," she added.

A recent staffing analysis conducted by the ODE showed Northridge employs five fewer teachers than comparable districts, and carries 26 fewer staff positions than similar districts.

The analysis compared Northridge to 20 districts in Ohio that are most similar to Northridge.

Measurements that were considered for comparison included average daily membership; percentage of district in professional occupations; median income; percent of population with a college degree or more; percent of agricultural property; population density and minority students, among others.

The board will review a proposed recovery plan at a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 14, in the media center. The plan is due to the ODE on May 20.

The plan must address the projected deficits for the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years.

"I don't think the Recovery Plan will include anything the board hasn't already discussed," Drummey said.