School District 26 Board approves new deal with teachers union

CARY – Teachers’ salaries will have their annual increases tied to inflation under a new three-year contract approved Tuesday by the School District 26 Board.

The contract, which also extends the school day by 30 minutes, aims to help the district continue to rebuild its savings, which had been depleted in previous years.

Superintendent Brian Coleman said the new deal fits within the district’s five-year financial plan.

Under the contract, teachers will receive a 1.7 percent salary increase this school year and an additional 1.5 percent increase the following year.

Both parties agreed that salary increases in the final year have to be between 1.3 and 4 percent, because the Consumer Price Index is not yet known for the 2016-17 school year.

Because of the tax cap law, the district can only increase its property tax levy by the rate of inflation on existing property. The 1.7 percent increase is the same percentage increase given to educational support personnel and administrators for this school year.

“We’re ensuring we attach compensation to the revenue we get,” board President Jason Larry said. “It ensures we stay living within our means and never pay more than what we’re making. It takes the guesswork out of how much funds the district will have in the future.”

Teachers already with the district also will receive a one-time lump sum stipend of 1 percent of their salary in the first year of the deal, and a lump sum payment of 0.5 percent of their salary the second year of the deal. Teachers also can see a pay increase if they complete additional education, Coleman said.

“It’s a way to say thank you for sticking with us, thank you for making the sacrifices,” Coleman said. “We’re going to recognize and value that.”

The previous union contract included a 3 percent pay cut for teachers during the first year of the deal, and a freeze to the base in the second and third years of deal. Teachers did receive increases in pay if they completed additional course work or degrees.

The new deal also provides retiring teachers with a 5 percent pay increase in their last year of employment, but limits the district’s participation in a state early retirement program to one teacher each year.

Teachers receiving end-of-career salary increases will not receive increases for CPI or the stipends.

Teachers who started with the district this school year will not receive the 1 percent stipend, and teachers who start with the district next school year will not receive the 0.5 percent stipend.

The base salary for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree will remain at $35,630 for all three years of the deal.

The contract also includes adding 30 minutes to the school day for more core instruction time, which was decreased as the district brought back more dedicated teachers for specials, such as band, foreign language, health and computer technology. Whether the time will be added to the end or beginning of the day has yet to be determined.

Beginning in January, school will be six hours and 45 minutes of instructional time rather than six hours and 15 minutes.

During this school year, the district projects to spend $11.1 million on salary and benefits, which is a drop from $11.3 million from last year, said Director of Finance and Operations Jeff Schubert.

In the 2015-16 school year, the salary and benefit costs are projected to go down to $10.5 million.

The drop in costs is attributed to many retirees coming off the books and being replaced with people at lower salaries, Schubert said.

Contract negotiations started in February. There were 11 meetings before each side jointly requested a mediator, who in two sessions helped the two sides come to an agreement on Aug. 19.

“Both the teachers and board compromised to reach this agreement,” Larry said. “We have terrific teachers in this district. I want to thank them for their time and effort in working with the board of education to reach this important milestone in our continued recovery.”

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