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Berkeley Co. board hikes teacher pay

April 03, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Board of Education on Monday unanimously adopted salary schedules that implement a 7 percent pay increase for the average contracted service and professional employee for the 2007-08 academic year.

"I think (it) is a huge step that we tried to take," Board president William F. "Bill" Queen said after reading a prepared statement that outlined a $1,600 across-the-board hike for teachers and other professional employees and a $900 increase for service personnel.

The bulk of the funding for the pay increases was made possible through county residents' support of an excess levy for the school district and Queen eschewed any of the hearty applause from a large board room crowd after the board's vote.

"I don't feel we need applause for that. The applause needs to go to the citizens of Berkeley County who supported the levy," said Queen, noting their 54 consecutive years of self-taxation for the schools' benefit.

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The pay raises amount to about $2.4 million in excess levy money and nearly $1 million generated by legislation adopted by state lawmakers last month. Senate Bill 541 allowed counties to retain more of their property tax dollars or "local share" for school funding.

The bill also provided a financial "trigger" for counties with exploding student enrollment and Berkeley County qualified for an additional $618,000 as a result. But the bill also subtracted money for the county's library system to the tune of about $668,000, Superintendent Many P. Arvon said.

Factoring in approximately $3.5 million set aside for the pay raises, the school district's spending plan for the 2007-08 budget year is projected to exceed $128 million, Jim Welton told board members.

The board is expected to receive a formal presentation of the school district's finances in two weeks and vote on a required balanced budget by the end of the month.

The pay raises adopted are guaranteed for the next four years and will continue as long as the levy is renewed by county residents, said Arvon, who commended board members for always looking for ways to increase employees' salaries and benefits.

"We're doing everything we possibly can to retain our employees," Arvon said after the meeting.

"Berkeley County leads West Virginia in the number of benefits we provide to our employees and every one of them comes out of the excess levy," he said.

Arvon also noted afterward that the state pay increase, though initially reported as a 3.5 percent hike, actually amounted to more of percent increase for tenured staff and less for others, including starting teachers.

The county's pay increase targeted those with less tenure, Arvon said. The average school teacher in the 2005-06 academic year was paid $40,399, according to figures Arvon provided. The average service worker's salary was $22,534.

Queen's announcement came before a planned statement by Berkeley County Education Association President James G. Keller, who said he was obligated to read it anyway on behalf of the teacher union's members.

"I want to thank you very deeply for what you have done," Keller said.




Pay dirt



· $28,495 - Pay for starting teacher with no experience in 2006-07

· $29,382 - Pay for starting teacher with no experience in 2007-08 after the state-approved raise

· $31,000 - Pay for starting teacher with no experience in 2006-07 with the state- and county board-approved raises

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