Public teachers’ salaries in Tooele County will remain essentially unchanged for the second straight year, with raises only given for additional education acquired while the district regroups after facing years of deficit spending.
Tasked with cutting $1.4 million from the district’s budget, Superintendent Scott Rogers said this just wasn’t a year the district could entertain additional compensation for teachers.
“First we have to stop the bleeding and find that savings,” he said. “Then we will work toward our goal for employee compensation and keeping up with neighboring districts.”
The agreement between the Tooele County School District and the Tooele Education Association was ratified at Tuesday night’s board meeting. It also included the district covering an increase in health benefits, which amounts to $484,000 over the course of the year. The district will not need to furlough any of its certified staff.
Salaries for teachers are based on a tabular schedule arranged in 15 rows and five columns. Moving down the rows, salary increases with each step down. These steps are awarded for each year of experience. Teachers can also move across the columns, or lanes, on the chart. Each lane is for a designated amount of education.
While teachers weren’t excited about the prospects of no pay increase, Rogers said things could have been worse.
“No one is getting extra money, but no one is losing money,” he said. “That was my goal, to not go backward. Do I want to get them more money? You better believe it. Our goal is to not go backward this year and live within our means, and then work toward upping employee compensation next year.”
The district’s goal to support teachers through enhanced efforts regarding employee compensation and retention was huge in the eyes of teachers, according to Rick Harrison, chairman of the board of the TEA.
“I want to tell you how important the direction that the board chose to go was in this ratification,” said Harrison. “Making a board goal of improving compensation so that we can retain and hire the best people really made a big difference. In terms of increased compensation, there wasn’t a whole lot there, but the teachers bought into the whole direction that the district is going and the ideas that Dr. Rogers has brought to us. I just wanted to let you know that they’re behind you, but we are hopeful that we can meet those goals next year.”
Rogers said in the wake of extreme budget cuts locally, obtaining an agreement wasn’t easy. But he’s appreciative of the understanding teachers had of the pressures weighing on the district.
“People are already feeling the pinch because of the county situation,” he said. “Cutting doesn’t always create the best attitude for negotiation. There were a lot of issues and [teachers] weren’t settled.”
The district still has a ways to go in terms of meeting the level of compensation paid by other districts of similar size, according to Rogers.
“We’re behind. We’ve got a ways to go,” he said. “From a compensative standpoint, we are below average. We’ve got some work to do. But this new agreement is great news for us. Now that it’s behind us, we can focus on new goals. We want to keep up with neighboring districts and not lose our people to them.”