By the time the School Board of Manatee County reached a decision Monday night to resolve the impasse between the teachers union and school district, many of the teachers wearing red shirts in the audience had headed home for the evening, and the nearly 200 who had lined Manatee Avenue West and Sixth Avenue West earlier in the day were long gone.
The best news for teachers who stuck it out was witnessing a union victory when it came to pay-step increases. Under the contract, highly effective-rated teachers will move four steps up the pay scale, and effective-rated teachers move up three steps. Over the course of a year, those step increases equate to roughly $1,200 and $900 respectively.
But in what was a significant loss for the union, the board’s contract did not make the pay retroactive to the beginning of the year. That means for 2016-17, highly effective teachers will receive about $212, and effective teachers will receive about $159, according to district Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Roberts.
MEA President Pat Barber said it was the first time in her memory the board gave a raise but did not make the contract retroactive to the beginning of the year.
“It makes it less of a raise, but it at least does build their base for when we start bargaining next year,” Barber said.
While the district has said the retroactive pay funds were used to pay higher insurance premiums until a contract was finalized, both board Chairman Charlie Kennedy and district negotiator Bill Vogel also said the district’s accounting software was partly to blame.
Kennedy referred to the software as a “dinosaur” Monday, and last week Vogel described it as “archaic,” making Roberts’ job more difficult than it should be.
While teachers have reason to be pleased with the pay step increases, increasing health insurance premiums remained untouched and, in some cases, will offset a teacher’s yearly raise within a month.
Teachers with their families on the plan will see premium increase ranging from $265 to $296, and teachers with a spouse on a plan will see increases ranging from $185 to $228. Teachers with children on the plan will see decreases, ranging from $90 to $158. But Roberts said it isn’t looking like it will get better any time soon.
“Health care is expected to go up by no less than 6 percent next year,” Roberts said. “Someone is going to have to pay for that.”
A $300 bonus for all teachers will help slightly offset some of those increased premiums. And teachers hitting 16 or 25 years in the district will receive sizable longevity supplements of $2,100 and $3,600, but that accounts for fewer than 60 teachers.
The next step is for a teacher vote on ratification. The vote is required by law, but even if teachers do not ratify, the salary and benefits decided by the board will remain in effect, said district negotiator Bill Vogel.
If the contract included other terms, either favorable to the teacher (like retroactive pay) or unfavorable (like a reduction in planning time, for example), the ratification vote would be more significant. In that case, a no vote from the teachers could either cancel their retroactive pay or prevent unfavorable conditions from extending beyond the end of the fiscal year. But because salary and benefits are considered status quo, the upcoming ratification vote will not impact the board’s decision.