How much premiums will increase for Manatee County teachers who have spouse or family health insurance plans seems to be the sticking point between the teachers union and district officials as negotiations continue toward a new 2016-17 contract.
The Manatee County School Board plans to approve its final 2016-17 budget on Sept. 6, but as with most years, the final negotiations between the Manatee Education Association and the district won’t be finalized until later on in the year. That’s not an unusual phenomena statewide, either.
“It varies from district to district,” said Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the Florida Education Association. “It all depends on the dynamic between the school district and the local union.”
In past years, Manatee salary raise announcements have come in October and November and are retroactive to July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.
At a recent meeting between Manatee school employees’ two bargaining units, both sides sparred over an option involving health insurance. The proposal presented would keep premiums for employee-only coverage and the employee and child plan flat for the upcoming year. The proposal brought forward would decrease the premium cost for those on the employee and children plan. The proposal would increase the premium for the employee and spouse plan, and for those on the family plan.
Manatee County is self-insured district, and has had issues in the past keeping the health insurance fund at an acceptable rate. Last year, the district contributed enough money to the health insurance fund to offset any premium increases.
The proposal brought to the bargaining table last week was signed off by the health insurance committee, which includes members of both the union and the district’s bargaining teams, but that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal, union bargaining members said.
“Our concern continues to be how much premium is being asked for,” said Pat Barber, head of the teacher’s union.
Bill Vogel, the district’s chief negotiator, said the district is really stretching itself this year on trying to keep the premium cost low.
“We only have a certain amount of money,” he said. “We want to do something with salaries, too.”
Premiums before pay
The district says there’s only a certain amount of money that will help subsidize premiums and be available for raises. Until the two sides know how much money is left for raises after subsidizing the premiums, it's unlikely they'll be able to come to an agreement on raises.
The district has agreed to salary increases for the past three years, although union officials said teachers still have not been made whole after both sides agreed to pay cuts for the 2007-08 and the 2010-11 years.
Bruce Proud, the union’s chief negotiator, presented a starting point on salaries last week, saying his plan was the “minimum” of what he believed would be acceptable. Proud’s plan for teachers would cost about $5 million and paraprofessional salary enhancement would cost an additional $1 million.
“I believe there are sufficient funds to fund this specific proposal,” Proud said.
Hampering the issue is that Manatee — and other districts around the state — are trying to juggle two different pay scales. All newly hired teachers after July 1, 2014, had to be placed on a “performance-pay” schedule, which rewards teachers who are rated highly effective or effective on evaluations. That piece has yet to be fully implemented by the state or the county, but new teachers still must be placed on that schedule.
Existing teachers have the option to move to the performance pay schedule or to stay on the “grandfathered” schedule, but once they move to performance pay they cannot then choose to move back. In theory, the grandfathered schedule provides more security for teachers who may not be rated highly effective or effective, but state statute says those on the performance pay schedule who are ranked highly effective must get at least $1 more in a raise than those on the grandfathered schedule, as an incentive for teachers to make the switch.
Although many districts are making gains in providing teacher raises after the economic downturn, Pudlow said few places have fully made up for it.
“Everybody’s still playing it close to the vest,” he said. “Everyone is kind of catching up.”
The latest state Department of Education data — collected in April 2016 — indicates the average teacher annual salary across the state of Florida comes in at $47, 179. That’s slightly lower than the spring 2015 data, which shows the average Florida teacher salary coming in at $47,950. In the 2016 data, Manatee shows an average teacher pay of $47,569, up slightly from the previous year average of $47,387.
The median teacher salary in the state of Florida from the 2016 data is $48,175, according to state data, higher than the 2015 median salary of $47,605. In Manatee, the median teacher salary from the 2016 data collection came out to $47,569 — the same as the district’s average for the 2016 data collection. The 2015 median Manatee teacher salary was $47,387 — again the same as the district’s average salary for that time period.
And while Manatee is close on the mark with the state average, the district is consistently lagging behind compared to Sarasota, the district directly to the south.
In the 2016 data collection, Sarasota paid an average of $55,834 and a median salary of $55,384, also. In 2015, the average Sarasota teacher salary was $57,026 and the median was also $57,026.
Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney