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Schools

Pinellas teacher raises to average 4.7 percent

The raise is proposed after the district heard from the state about the budget.

By THOMAS C. TOBIN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 13, 2007


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Pinellas teachers will receive an average pay increase of 4.7 percent, under a tentative bargaining agreement approved Friday.

The long-delayed pay package came after the district received a firm indication from the state of how much would have to be cut from this year's budget.

Other district employees -- including administrators, bus drivers and cafeteria workers -- would get a 4 percent raise under the plan.

In addition, there will be no increase in health insurance premiums for most employees.

The district's pay package usually is formalized before school starts in August, but uncertainty about Florida's budget situation prompted a delay until the news out of Tallahassee was more solid.

It's the latest in the year a settlement has occurred since the district began collective bargaining in 1967, said Jade Moore, executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

"I'm very pleased that we can fund this level of compensation in a very difficult budget time," said superintendent Clayton Wilcox. Earlier this year, district officials had worried that raises would be in the 3 percent range.

The more than 14,000 people who work for Pinellas schools compose the county's largest workforce. Nearly 8,000 of them are teachers.

The tentative deal will be presented to employees next week and a ratification vote is scheduled for the week of Oct. 22. The School Board is scheduled to vote on the deal Oct. 30.

Employees will receive retroactive pay dating back to July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. The retroactive amounts will be included in Nov. 9 paychecks for teachers and administrators and in Nov. 16 paychecks for other employees. Those also are the dates the raises will take effect.

The teachers' raise rose above 4 percent thanks to money from a special property tax approved by Pinellas voters in 2004. The tax of 50 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value was billed by supporters as a way to attract and retain teachers.

If the latest raise is approved, Pinellas' average teacher pay will have increased nearly 20 percent overall in the three years since the special tax went into effect. The teachers union estimates that salary increases have averaged about $10,000 during that time.

Though the average raise would be 4.7 percent for teachers, amounts will vary for individuals depending on where they are on the salary scale, which is based on years of service. Details of those variations will not be available until Monday.

But Moore estimated that the average teacher salary would improve by about $2,000 over last year's average of $46,770.

He and Ron Stone, a top administrator who serves as the district's chief negotiator, said they expect the new scale to include larger bumps for starting teachers, those at the top of the scale and those in the middle of the scale who in the past got relatively small raises.

A primary focus will be starting salaries for teachers just out of college with a bachelor's degree. Their salary stands at $36,000. In the new scale, the district expects to get that up to about $37,300 to compete with Hillsborough's starting salary of just more than $37,000.

Thomas C. Tobin can be reached at tobin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8923.

[Last modified October 13, 2007, 03:04:05]


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