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Secondary education

FARMER CITY — The president of the Blue Ridge Federation of Teachers said members are likely to strike if a deal with the Blue Ridge School Board is not finalized by Oct. 28.

Members authorized a strike in a Sunday night vote in Farmer City, Don Anton said.

“The board says they are committed to the negotiations process, but at our last meeting they rejected our latest proposal and failed to give a counter offer,” Anton said in the statement. “Federation members want to reach a deal, but our collective patience is running thin. The board needs to understand that time is running out.”

“The board remains committed to reaching an agreement with the BRFT that honors the work of the district's employees and maintains the financial stability of the district,” said Blue Ridge Superintendent Susan Wilson in a statement released Monday.

The earliest members could strike would be Oct. 28, but Anton said negotiations would continue until the end of the month to reach a deal.

Salary and wage increases still appear to be the main negotiating issues. Previously, Wilson said the parties have reached tentative agreements on several items. Those include an increase in sick leave allotment from 14 days per year to 14 to 21 days per year, depending on years of service to the district; an increase from $300 to $800 per year for tuition reimbursement for teachers; and an expansion on the use of personal leave.

Federation members, who include teachers, aides, secretaries, drivers, library clerks, cooks, nurses and custodians, had an informational picket outside the high school on Monday afternoon, Anton said.

The most recent deal, a three-year contract, expired June 30. The union is proposing a one-year deal. The district would like a three-year contract. The union is asking for a 4.25 percent hike in teacher salaries. The board has offered a 2.25 percent increase.

In addition to Farmer City, the Blue Ridge district also includes the communities of Mansfield and Bellflower.

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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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