For the second year in a row, Billings teachers have started the school year without a contract.
School District 2 and the Billings Education Association, the local teachers union, haven't reached a contract despite negotiating since June. Salary, so far, has been a major sticking point.
The union and district both moved off their previous proposals Monday, with the school district inching its three-year offer up to a .75 percent raise in year one, followed by 1 percent raises the next two years.
The union countered with a two-year offer of a 2.5 percent and 2.75 percent raise, a significant decrease from previous proposals.
The meeting occurred under the specter of another looming budget cut.
After SD2 already lost about $600,000 during trigger cuts announced in July when state revenue came in below expectations, another round of similar cuts is in the works as state agencies have been asked to reduce budgets 10 percent.
"I'm not crying, but I want all of us to be realistic about this," SD2 superintendent Terry Bouck.
So far this school year, teachers have been paid under the previous contract. A new contract, if ratified by union membership and SD2 trustees, will be retroactively paid dating to July 1. Last year, an agreement was reached Sept. 7.
The two sides have reached tentative agreements to pay mentors for a program to help teachers earn National Board Certification and to let teachers who would be slated to switch schools under a 12-year cap to petition to stay.
The next meeting between the district and union isn't scheduled yet.