Rockford has one of the highest property taxes in the nation. The state of Illinois has a growing budget deficit making college funding appropriations unknown. In addition, the Rockford area has lost population, and enrollment at Rock Valley College (RVC) has dropped.
Nine month RVC faculty members earn a base salary on average of $66,000 (which does not include extra duty pay or summer pay) and have a generous Cadillac health insurance plan. They now want more, a lot more at taxpayer expense.
RVC Faculty Union recently turned down a Federal Mediator (a neutral third party) proposal that would have ended the strike and returned college students back to their classroom. The decision was disappointing and is proof that the taxpayers of Winnebago, Boone and McHenry counties need our support now more than ever.
The Federal Mediator’s proposed agreement increased salaries by $4 million over five years and required an increased insurance premium from 17.5% of cost to 25% for the life of the entire five-year contract. The agreement would have raised faculty salaries by $1,000 in the first two years and more than $2,500 in the final year of the agreement.
Again, property taxes are high, enrollment is down and state funding is likely to decrease. At a time when common sense should prevail, “Why should taxpayers provide any raise at all?”
I recently saw a social media post from a part-time instructor at RVC. He is out of work due to the strike and presented an interesting perspective. He indicated that as a part time faculty member, his classes are often dropped or taken from him and given to full-time faculty to meet their union contract requirements. As a part-time instructor he is not eligible for the same health insurance package as the full-time faculty and, like many Americans, his health insurance premiums skyrocketed after the implementation of Obamacare. The individual health-insurance plan he pays for through the marketplace has a $6,000 deductible and costs $180 a month. Current faculty health insurance for an individual plan is a $750 deductible and costs $100 a month.
The Board of Trustees of Rock Valley College should know that the taxpayers support their efforts to provide fair salaries and benefits to the Faculty while at the same time being mindful of the dwindling tax dollars in the region. I encourage the RVC Faculty Union to be supportive of our students, their education and to take into account financial realities.