Negotiations over teacher salaries stall in Rapid City

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Contract negotiations between teachers and district officials in South Dakota's second-largest city have stalled.

The Rapid City Education Association declared an impasse this week after salary negotiations for the 2015-2016 school year broke down late Wednesday when the teachers' union turned down the school board's last and final offer.

The offer included raises linked to the success of a June 2 vote that will ask voters whether to increase property taxes to bring in an estimated $6 million more to the district. Those raises would have advanced teachers on the current salary schedule to the point they were at before the district stopped offering raises based on a teacher's education and experience, Rapid City School Board President Jim Hansen told the Rapid City Journal.

Hansen said he was stunned by the rejection and said negotiators turned it down without consulting their membership.

"It's mind-boggling," Hansen. "It is the offer they have asked for, for two years. They asked us to back and put everyone where they belonged six years ago. And they say 'no' and won't take it back to the membership."

But union officials say they don't have issue with the proposal if voters all the property tax increases. They're concerned what happens if they don't.

Fran Linn, the RCEA vice president, said teachers are concerned about the pay scale if the measure fails. Linn told the Rapid City Journal that if the opt-out vote doesn't pass it will be hard for schools to compete with those in neighbors Wyoming.

"We've never been able to compete, but we can't compete with those sorts of levels," she told South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

If a deal is not reached, the groups will enter into arbitration.

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