August 25, 2011 |

Board OKs raises for school staff

The school district’s classified employees received a 4 percent raise and teachers received raises between 2 and 8 percent as the result of a new contract agreement between the Haines Borough School District and the local education union.

The district also agreed to pay an additional $100 per month per employee for health insurance, or $1,400 per month, per employee.

The cost of the increases is $194,650, but they will put a dent into the fiscal year 2012 budget of only $30,000 due to savings in personnel by retirement of better-paid senior teachers and other staffing changes, district officials said this week.

The disparity in the range of raises for teachers is aimed at bringing up the pay of the new teachers and others at the bottom of the pay scale, superintendent Michael Byer said this week.

"Our upper teachers are in the middle" of a statewide ranking of teacher salaries, "but our new teachers were among the lowest-paid in the state," Byer said.

"This puts them more into the middle of the pack in terms of pay. This will help with recruitment and retention of teachers. We’ve had some applicants who’ve said they couldn’t afford to live here," Byer said.

The district’s top salaries went up 2 percent and bottom salaries went up between 5 and 8 percent, he said. The contract is for two years but allows the district to re-open salary and benefit talks in one year.

"With no forward funding of education (by the Alaska Legislature), and given the great uncertainty of funding, it doesn’t make sense to make promises you might not be able to keep," Byer said. "There’s no agreement on what will happen next year. It’s a one-year situation."

The district should still have a carry-over of $320,000, which Byer described as healthy. "We will have to dig into reserves a little bit to meet this contract, but not a ton."

Also under the contract, teachers will be paid in 12 installments instead of nine. Teachers sought the change to help with personal budgeting, Byer said.

school board member Brian Clay described the increased pay as "affordable and fair." The 4 percent raise for employees who are not educators was necessary for keeping up with the increased cost of living, Clay said.

In 2009, teachers and other staff received a 3 percent pay increase, which increased another 2 percent in 2010. That contract also provided an additional $100 per month district contribution to the cost of health insurance policies for employees.