The Palo Alto school district has reached tentative agreements on raises for its teachers and classified employee unions, far earlier in the year than has historically happened in the city.
Under the tentative agreements, teachers and classified staff would receive a 1% retroactive salary increase for this year, a one-time 1.5% bonus and contingency language that provides for additional ongoing raises if the district's final annual property tax revenues exceed current growth projections of 5.93%. The district has also tentatively agreed to contribute slightly more to health care benefits for full-time employees, from $13,570 to $14,099 per year.
The district and its unions are typically negotiating compensation and benefits through the spring. Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association, said that in the decade she's been involved in negotiations, this is the earliest they've ever come to an agreement (except when there were no raises).
"Settling at this point in the year adds some predictability for the district administration and employees, and provides the negotiations teams with good momentum as we continue working on other contract articles," she said.
Meb Steiner, president of the local California School Employees Association (CSEA) chapter, echoed her sentiment and said she is "very happy that we reached a tentative agreement."
Superintendent Don Austin called the timing of the agreements "historic."
"The shift in negotiations timing puts PAUSD on a more traditional schedule, allowing for substantive contract language discussions to occur throughout the remainder of the year void of distractions," he said. "The Board of Education was able to determine parameters for negotiations that maintained space for future initiatives supporting students, while also delivering certainty for employees around health and welfare benefits and compensation."
The district also "has no exposure in the agreement resembling a previous misstep a couple years ago," Austin said, referring to the district's failure in 2017 to formally notify the unions that the district planned to exercise an option to reopen negotiations, with the intent of canceling raises after a misestimate in property taxes.
This year the district also publicly released proposals and counterproposals throughout the bargaining process — possibly for the first time. An Oct. 4 update posted on the district website shows the district and teachers union went back and forth on the property tax growth contingency language. The district initially offered an additional 1% raise if the actual property tax rates exceed its projections; the union countered with a 1.5% raise. The teachers union also asked for at one point a 2% raise for this year.
Last year, teachers and senior managers received a 2% pay bump and 2% one-time bonus.
The tentative agreements will be brought to the school board on Tuesday, Nov. 5.