LA CROSSE Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Salary negotiations between the La Crosse School District and its teachers remain at a standstill. Teachers in the school district of La Crosse remain at an impasse with administration about their salaries. Community supporters gathered with the La Crosse Education Association Monday to call for a cost-of-living pay increase.

“It’s not just the employees of the school district that are in this, this is a community-wide agreement that we need to compensate our teachers fairly.”

LEA President Jesse Martinez says a petition in support of fair pay has also garnered more than 500 signatures from district employees and parents. Superintendent Aaron Engel appreciates the advocacy of the LEA, but says a two percent pay raise is all the district can afford.

“I wish we could give the maximum we could and then some, the challenge is, simply, our finances don’t dictate it. We’re starting this school year with a 2.4-million-dollar budget deficit due to declining enrollment.”

Some teachers contend the district doesn’t have its priorities straight as it considers a near 200-million-dollar referendum. The money would be used to merge Central and Logan High Schools into one new building, which Engel says would alleviate the district’s budget challenges.

“Our consolidated facilities plans, that’s a crucial step in being able to afford wages in the future. The plans that we have would ask for new money from our community, and along the way we’d be able to save four-and-a-half million dollars a year if we went to a one new high school model.”

Teachers say they would rather see immediate action on wage increases…with discussions taking a new form in the coming weeks.

“We are in the process of going into mediation with the district, and having one of those neutral third parties come in from the Wisconsin employment relations commission to look at both sides and see what we can come to an agreement on.”

Engel says the district’s goal is to come to a satisfactory salary proposal as quickly as possible. Engel says if a middle ground can’t be reached, district administration would turn to the school board to impose a final offer.