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Negotiators: 'We have a deal' on teachers' pay
The agreement reached Wednesday gives a 6.04 percent raise to all county teachers.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published December 6, 2007
Hernando School Board finance director Deborah Bruggink said the latest offer represents a substantial improvement in teacher pay.
BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando County teachers and the School Board reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on a new contract.
Under their agreement teachers' salaries would rise by 6.04 percent this year, plus the full cost of a 1 percent health care insurance increase.
"We have a deal," said Superintendent Wayne Alexander.
The agreement must still be ratified by the Hernando Classroom Teacher's Association union and approved by the School Board.
Earlier finance director Deborah Bruggink said the district's latest offer represented a substantial improvement in teacher pay.
"Our beginning salary recommendation, this is huge, is $34,182," she added. "And the top, people who have 27 or more years (of experience) is $53,189."
Negotiators for the Hernando Classroom Teachers' Association initially voiced concerns over the offer, saying it introduced new complications into the salary schedule.
For example, second- and third-year teachers would make the same $34,182 under the board's latest offer, said union president Joe Vitalo.
"A person who's been here two years is going to say, 'Hmm, someone who just arrived is making as much as me,'" he said. "That's insulting."
But negotiators then agreed to salary increments in the first three years, as well as some changes at the top of the scale.
Contract talks stalled last week, after the union balked at the district's proposal for distributing what it called a 5.5 percent average increase plus the health care payment. Union officials said that would leave little for those at the top of the salary scale.
In its latest offer, the School Board decided to use money budgeted for emergency reserves to pay for the extra professional day. That would bring the reserve fund to 2.7 percent of its $177.5-million operating budget.
And the board would equalize salary inequities across the salary schedule, giving teachers at all levels the same 6.04 percent increase. In previous years, pay increases varied widely depending on experience.
"I believe, given the climate in which we're operating, that this is an extremely generous offer," said board vice chairman Jim Malcolm earlier.
The board has been struggling to raise Hernando's traditionally low starting salary to help recruit new teachers, and the current offer would top 17 other counties, according to labor relations director Barbara Kidder. Last year's beginning pay was $32,000, and teachers didn't cross the $34,000 threshold without seven years of experience.