Teachers in the Palo Alto school district are asking for a one-time, 1 percent stipend, sharing in a year-end surplus in the school district budget.
At tonight's Board of Education meeting, the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA), which represents more than 800 full- and part-time teachers, will call for "securing a general salary increase which is commensurate with the district's ability to pay." That would come on top of automatic, seniority-based "step-and-column" increases.
The request, to be taken up at the negotiating table in August, will be the topic of a public hearing as well as discussion at tonight's meeting.
Former PAEA President Triona Gogarty, who recently was succeeded as president by Addison kindergarten teacher Teri Baldwin, previewed the request in testimony before the board last month.
"Over the last several years we have seen a steady increase in the positive ending balance when each fiscal year closes," Gogarty said.
The school district currently has an "undesignated reserve fund" of nearly $13 million.
"The increase in the positive ending balance is possible in part because of cuts to employee benefits, increases in class size and no increase to compensation for the last three years," Gogarty said.
"It is ... hard for teachers to plan their budgets. Rents in the Bay Area have increased 10 to 12 percent in 2011, and do I even need to mention gas prices for our commuting teachers? High local living expenses are a serious disincentive to young teachers joining the district."
Gogarty noted $1 million in savings the district achieved after budgeted costs for county mental health services did not materialize as anticipated.
She proposed that the $1 million be paid out to employees as a one-time stipend, "to offset increases to the cost of living in this very expensive Bay Area and cuts to health benefits incurred in the past three years.
"We know the board feels an obligation to plan conservatively," Gogarty said.
"However they also have an obligation to their employees. Sixteen of the surrounding districts have received raises in the last year and increases to their health benefits. It is time for Palo Alto to step up," Gogarty said.
Currently, a starting teacher in Palo Alto earns $51,422, with an additional benefit package worth $12,865. A teacher with seven years' experience and 60 units of graduate work earns $74,753. An experienced teacher with 20 years' experience and 90 units of graduate work earns $97,666. The maximum for a teacher with 30 years' experience is $103,836.
Salary and benefits for teachers and other employees comprise about 86 percent of the school district's roughly $160 million operating budget.
The K-12 Palo Alto district serves 12,286 students.
In other business tonight, the board will hear an update from Superintendent Kevin Skelly on progress toward the district's top goals for 2011-12, as well as a report on activities related to student "connectedness" and mental health, including activities of the community coalition Project Safety Net.
Following a 5:30 p.m. closed session for legal and personnel issues, the board's regular meeting will convene at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.