The Haines Borough school board on June 13 approved employee contracts that include a 2 percent raise for teachers and other district employees and a one-year, $550 per capita “stipend” to employees to defray rising costs of health insurance.
Board members also approved a 25-cent per hour raise for teachers’ aides and custodians, raising the base rate for those jobs to $15.52 per hour, said board member Ardy Miller, who served on the school board’s negotiating team.
Superintendent Michael Byer and board member Ann Marie Palmieri also served on the board’s team. The staff negotiating team included Rene Martin, Barbara Pardee and Suzanne Newton.
The increases, contained in the two-year contract with a provision that allows the board to revisit salaries and benefits in one year, will cost the district about $87,300 annually, Miller said.
The board voted unanimously for the increases for teachers. Member Brenda Jones voted against raises for classified workers on the grounds that those workers are compelled to pay union dues that don’t go to the local teachers union.
Board member Miller said the raises would make pay in Haines comparable to similarly-sized communities with a similar cost of living.
“We did have some funding available that we could use for (the stipend). The cost of insurance to employees is going up and this is to smooth that over this year. It’s not something we anticipate seeing in future contracts,” Miller said.
Board member Sarah Swinton characterized the raises as a “compromise” that is good for teachers and the district. Swinton said the district holds a fund balance that can cover the raises, but she’s worried about the future and a trend of declining enrollment.
“I don’t want to get back to where we had no money and were laying off teachers. Haines is not exactly sprouting new kids,” Swinton said.
Jones said the raises were in the best interest of student achievement and that the stipend would entirely cover increases in employees’ health insurance costs.
“We want motivated, effective teachers and staff and we want to be in line with what other school districts in Southeast Alaska are paying. We review other pay scales.” The increases leave the district with a “comfortable” fund balance, she said.
When the contracts were last negotiated in 2011, the board approved teacher raises ranging between 2 and 8 percent, and 4 percent raises for classified employees. The district at that time also agreed to pay an additional $100 per month per employee for health insurance, or $1,400 per month per employee.
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 for health insurance for each employee.