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Teacher pay-raise talks postponed to next year

In tentative pact, Palo Alto school district, unions, cite budget uncertainty

Talks on possible pay raises for Palo Alto teachers will be postponed until after the first of the year because of uncertainties surrounding state and school district revenues, according to tentative agreements between the Palo Alto school district and its labor unions.

Under the preliminary pacts, to be discussed Tuesday by the Board of Education, the district has doubled its cash incentives for early retirees to opt out of district-paid health benefits. The district will pay $6,000, double the previous figure, for each year of eligibility forfeited.

Last year, the district completely ended retiree health benefits for teachers and others hired after June 1, 2009.

In the tentative agreements ratified by union members last month, the district agreed to use a combination of one-time federal Education Jobs funds and "one-time district funds" to pay for employee contribution toward benefits during calendar year 2011.

Last year, teachers and other employees got no pay increase other than the regular "step-and-column" adjustments based on seniority and graduate units.

In 2008-2009, they got a 2.5 percent raise plus a one-time payment of 2.5 percent of their previous year's salary.

Brand new teachers in Palo Alto, who have not taught elsewhere, earn roughly $51,500. A teacher with seven years' experience gets about $75,000 and a teacher with 20 years of service about $98,000.

On top of that, the district pays an average benefits cost of $12,865 per employee. And beyond that, the district pays a 12.5 percent mandatory contribution to the state for teacher retirement and workers compensation funds.

Personnel costs comprise about 85 percent of the school district's $157 million annual operating budget.

The district holds separate but generally parallel agreements with the Palo Alto Educators Association, representing teachers; the California School Employees Association, representing classified staff; non-representative management employees and "non-represented confidential/supervisory" employees.

The public session of Tuesday night's (Dec. 7) school board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

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