When school begins Tuesday in Utah County's second-largest school district, its teachers will be under a new one-year contract.

Although exact figures on teacher balloting will not be available until Tuesday, Nebo Education Association President Jim Griffin said that teachers in the district's 30 schools have apparently voted overwhelmingly (by an 88 percent to 12 percent margin) to approve the latest offer from the district.The terms of that one-year contract extension will boost teacher base salaries by 2.6 percent, bringing average teacher salaries from just over $17,500 to just over $18,000. The package also includes full insurance benefits. That pay raise leaves Nebo in the middle as far as teacher salaries are concerned, just $50 less than Provo district salaries.

Gov. Norm Bangerter and the Legislature recently approved appropriations that would allow districts to increase teacher salaries and benefits by a full 3.2 percent. However, according to district superintendent Dennis Poulsen, the full insurance benefits and benefit increases demand that base salaries increase by just the 2.6 percent figure.

"When those benefits are included, we feel that we've gone well beyond the 3.2 percent increase," Poulsen said.

Griffin said teachers are happy to be back under contract. "The district did give us a good raise last year, and we think that they've given us a pretty good deal to work with."

Unlike Alpine School District, which is deadlocked in a contract dispute with its teachers and will depend upon an arbitrator to fully study the issues - including full insurance benefits, Nebo kept communications open with its teachers association, Griffin said.

Nebo originally offered a 2.59 percent raise with insurance benefits but increased that to 2.6 percent in late August. During a full meeting of the teachers association constituency on Aug. 20, educators voted to postpone any action on the contract proposal. Instead, shop stewards in each of the schools sat down with their respective constituencies and explained the full proposal, including details of Nebo's financial situation.

The positive results of that week-long voting came as a relief to both teachers association and district officials.

"We always felt like there was a good working relationship between the two sides," Poulsen said. "I don't think we or the teachers ever felt nervous - we just had to try and get some details worked out."

Fortunately for Nebo, its state appropriations could change slightly after it receives its first full enrollment statistics in early October. The Legislature bases its appropriations upon that first head count.

Because both parties negotiated in good faith, district officials could reward teachers next year with another raise and enhanced benefits package, Griffin said.

Additionally, he said the sides have left one issue open until the October head count - incremental raises for its more than 200 Step 15 teachers, or those with at least 15 years teaching experience with the district.

If those figures indicate a rise in Nebo's weighted pupil unit (the figure the Legislature uses for appropriations), the district could possibly "go farther than the additional 2 percent raise that teachers get when they hit that plateau," Griffin said.