Teachers, others to get raise, 2% bonus

Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 9:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 9:23 p.m.

Alachua County school employees are getting a raise — and a 2 percent bonus.

The Alachua County School Board on Tuesday approved both the bonus and the integration of an extra $2 million into the base pay for instructional staff — which includes teachers, guidance counselors and media specialists.

The one-time bonus came from $2 million in local funds allocated by the School Board.

Bonuses have been applied a number of ways over the years, but, "We felt that (an across-the-board 2 percent bonus) was the most fair way to do it," said Karen McCann, president of the Alachua County Education Association.

Employees will receive the bonuses in June.

School Board members approved an additional $2 million in recurring funds for a raise in base pay for all instructional staff.

Teachers and employees who are part of the bargaining unit will negotiate the terms of the raise over the summer. McCann said she hopes the raise will be reflected in employees' Aug. 15 paychecks.

"It'll be a complicated, tedious process to figure out how we put that $2 million into the salary schedule," she said.

Alachua County teachers receive automatic step increases each year, meaning that their salary increases each year that they continue to teach in the district up to 25 years. After 25 years, teachers remain in the same pay step.

But teachers also had a 3 percent pay cut in 2011, and since 2008 no money has been added to the pay schedule to balance those cuts, McCann said.

Alachua County teachers are also among the lowest-paid in the state.

In better economic times, she said, the district would be able to put money into the pay schedule and increase base pay for each step, giving teachers a bigger raise from year to year.

Right now, each step increase for a teacher with a bachelor's degree is a little less than $700 per year. The starting salary for a teacher in Alachua County is only about $17,000 less than the salary would be if that same teacher had been teaching for 25 years.

"It doesn't keep up with the cost of living," McCann said.

But even with the cuts and the comparatively lower base pay, Alachua County is better off than some other districts that have frozen step increases, she said.

School Board member Carol Oyenarte pointed out that the district hasn't had to close schools or lay off employees.

The board was optimistic Tuesday night that the district would be able to keep the $2 million recurring for annual step increases.

In turn, each board member emphasized the importance of being able to give raises to teachers, particularly after a financially tough couple of years.

"We're heading in the right direction," board member Gunnar Paulson said. "We're doing a lot for our employees. This is a high point, I think."

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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