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Proposal would give step increases to Washington County school employees

Employees at top step would get $500 more

June 20, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Eligible Washington County Public Schools employees are expected to get a step increase and employees at the top step for each salary scale would get $500 more, according to an updated proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The negotiated salary increase for all employees accounts for a $3.15 million increase in expenditures, according to the proposed budget the Board of Education is scheduled to vote on during Tuesday’s 1 p.m. meeting at the central office off Commonwealth Avenue.

The school board also is expected to vote on contract issues for all three employee groups. Last week, some board members said employees would get raises if the board approved the issues Tuesday. Board Vice President W. Edward Forrest characterized the pay increase as “not a lot.”

Because chief negotiators for the school system and its two employee unions agreed not to reveal details of the contracts until after the board vote, board members interviewed did not want to discuss details of the pay increase.

The school board voted 7-0 on March 15 to adopt a proposed $241.7 million budget to present to the Washington County Commissioners later that month. At that time, there were still uncertainties about county and state funding for the school system, as well as unresolved contract issues.

At the time of that vote, the budget was balanced at $241,745,781. The proposed budget on which the board will vote during today’s meeting is balanced at $241,754,545, an increase of $8,764.

Expenses would increase by $12.9 million over the budget for the current fiscal year, according to budget presentation documents. Almost half of that increase, 46.1 percent, is related to salary and benefit increases.

Personnel costs make up more than 85 percent of the current $230.9 million general fund budget, Chief Financial Officer Chris South has said.

The school system’s expenses would increase by $2,483,942 due to a health insurance premium increase of 10 percent, and increase $20,000 due to a pension rate adjustment for support personnel, according to budget presentation documents.

The school system had set aside $5.2 million in case state lawmakers decided to pass down state pension costs to local school systems this coming fiscal year. The school board’s budget advisory group recommended a portion of that money be set aside for step increases for employees if the state didn’t pass pension costs down. The state hasn’t passed along pension costs yet, but there’s still a chance it could happen at some point.

On Tuesday, the school board will vote on a new three-year contract with the Washington County Teachers Association. Pay would be renegotiated for the second and third years.

The board also is expected to vote on renegotiated aspects of the last year of its contract with the Washington County Educational Support Personnel and an agreement with the nonunion Washington County Association of Supervisors and Administrators.

Neither cost-of-living increases nor step increases were given to members of any of the three employee bargaining units this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Negotiations with the teachers and support personnel unions resulted in an impasse last summer over issues that included salaries.

In November, the school system settled with the teachers union, providing a one-time $500 stipend to employees represented by both unions, as well as to supervisors and administrators.

In January, the school system settled with support personnel, agreeing to provide a one-time payment of 1 percent of support personnel’s base pay. That was in lieu of 3 percent raises and step increases, if applicable, that were called for this fiscal year in the support personnel union’s contract.

Following is a list of negotiated increases and their associated increased costs, according to the proposed budget:
• One step for all eligible employees, $2,901,243.
• $500 enhancement to top step of each salary scale, $250,951.
• Teacher tuition reimbursement, $125,000.
• Teacher retirement sick leave cash-out, $105,000.
• Teacher reimbursement for Claud E. Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview overnight, $18,351.
• Educational Support Personnel retirement sick leave cash-out, $24,000.
• Increase administrators’ and supervisors’ annual leave carry-over by five days, $11,000.

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