The Westerville Education Association will give up $1.7 million in salaries and benefits to help ease the nearly $3-million budget deficit the Westerville City School District faces at the end of this fiscal year.

The Westerville Education Association will give up $1.7 million in salaries and benefits to help ease the nearly $3-million budget deficit the Westerville City School District faces at the end of this fiscal year.

The association, which represents the district's 1,030 teachers and licensed personnel, voted last week on the concession package, said WEA president Chris Williams.

"All of the employee labor groups are looking at what they can do," Williams said.

He said opinions among members varied widely about whether this was the right solution, or whether the union should be doing more or less to help with the budget deficit.

Ultimately, Williams said, employees wanted to help save jobs from potential cuts.

"That was, for some people, a huge driver," he said.

Though the WEA has agreed to freeze salaries in the past, this marks the first time the union has chosen to give money back, Williams said.

The union decided not to disclose precisely where the money is coming from - cuts to cost-of-living increases, step increases or benefits, Williams said.

He said he hopes the concessions show the community that the school district is willing to do all it can to keep costs low while seeking a new levy.

The 7.9-mill property-tax levy being discussed by the district would cost taxpayers an additional $242 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value. The concessions, spread among all of the WEA's members, would cost each employee about $1,700, Williams said.

"At least this is something where our people feel they're giving their fair share," he said.

Also to help with the budget deficit, the union members agreed to adjust the pay schedule to have employees paid 24 times in fiscal year 2012 rather than the usual 26 times per year.

In fiscal year 2012, employees were scheduled to be paid 27 times, something that happens every seven years.

By going to 24 pays this year, the additional $1-million cost that would have come with the 27th pay period would pushed out of this year's budget to next year, which could allow the district to end fiscal year 2012 in the black without making further cuts, Williams said.