Every teacher in the Moffat County School District will earn $905 more next year than they did this year, and other employees will see a 2 percent pay raise.
Members of Moffat County Education Association -- a union for educators -- voted unanimously to approve a salary agreement with the district that provides for pay raises and a new "retirement appreciation compensation" plan, which gives long-term employees a cash bonus when they retire. Employees who retired after 15 years of work with the district get $1,000. That increases in $500 increments for every five years until 30, at which time the bonus maxes out at $2,500.
This year there were no policy or benefit changes discussed.
Moffat County High School teacher James Neton served as the chairman for the five-member negotiating team. This is the third year he's been on the team, and he said each year the negotiations get easier.
"We came together very well and very quickly," he said.
Teachers made a proposal, and the school board's negotiating team countered it.
And that was it.
"I definitely think this is a better way of going about negotiations that what I've seen in the past," he said.
Even before negotiations begin, the MCEA negotiating team gets together with the district's team for an information-sharing session. Teachers bring data relating to average wages and the district brings data on the state of its budget.
This year, the Board of Education directed staff to maintain a zero growth budget.
According to Superintendent Pete Bergmann, the school district will be able to do that and still give salary increases because of some cost savings in other areas. Several teachers at the high end of the salary scale are retiring and not all those positions are being refilled because of declining enrollment. The district also will save money on health insurance.
Neton thinks the preliminary discussion is the primary reason that negotiations went so well.
"It gives both sides a real good picture of where we stand," Neton said. "We try to come to a decision that benefits the teachers and the school district."
What the raise does is boost the entry-level salary for teachers to $30,000.
"That was a real high point for the negotiations," Neton said. "Two percent is a really good agreement considering the state of the district's finances and the budget."
Last year the average raise was 1 percent.
Negotiations are always a dilemma, board member Rod Durham said.
"We want to keep our pay scale competitive and take care of teachers," he said. "You'd always like to be able to do more, but this is a step in the right direction."
Bergmann said the district's top priority is education, "which means taking care of employees.
Having an informational meeting helps the process, Bergmann said, so that neither side begins with unrealistic expectations.
Eighty-five percent of the school district's budget goes toward salary and benefits.
Christina M. currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210 or by e-mail at email@example.com.