May 20, 2014

Carroll Community School District teachers will receive a salary increase greater than 5 percent for the 2014-15 school year.

The total package increase cost to the district is 3.95 percent - or $375,740. But the insurance cost for 2014-15 actually decreased by 1.51 percent - meaning the salary increase received by the teachers is greater than the total package increase, explained business manager Gary Bengtson.

The school board approved the 2014-15 master contract last week - during the same meeting it cut 11 positions in the district in order to save $650,000 in the general fund next year. The current 2013-14 year is the first time in more than a decade that district expenses exceeded revenues - to the tune of $800,000. But board member Duane Horsley voiced fear that the contract would be taken to arbitration if the board did not approve it - at which point he believed it would cost the district more.

During arbitration, each side presents its case, and the arbitrator - selected by both parties - chooses one side's proposal on each issue, from salary to insurance to language. The arbitrator cannot propose a compromise.

"If we came in with a freeze, I can almost guarantee you we would have lost," said Bengtson.

Arbitration is risky - one arbitrator may heavily weigh a district's finances while another may not - and expensive, costing $5,000 to $12,000.

Typically, if the district goes to arbitration, it would present a proposal similar to the state average - currently hovering around 4 percent.

The agreement approved by the Carroll Education Association and the school board increases the base salary by $784 - bringing the starting salary for a beginning teacher to $35,773.

The agreement also added a level so teachers in the district for more than the roughly 20 years covered by the salary schedule - in which teachers receive an approximately 4.5 percent salary increase every year - would not be left without a raise. Teachers filling 33 full-time positions and one half-time position received increases from this additional step, said Bengtson.

The equivalent of 125.5 teaching positions and two nursing positions are covered by the CEA agreement. This cost will account for about $7,296,732 in general-fund spending next year.

Non-bargaining groups received a 3.26 percent package increase. That group includes administrators, secretaries, custodians, food-service workers and bus mechanics, among others.

That agreement represents an increase of about $81,000 to general-fund spending - bringing the total cost of the non-bargaining employees to about $2.5 million for next year.

The board approved a two-year agreement with the support staff association during its April meeting. A 3.46 pecrent package increase will cost the district $62,226 in 2014-15, bringing the total amount spent to pay and provide insurance for those employees - including special-education assistants, health assistants, bus drivers and transportation workers - to about $1.8 million.