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PACT GIVES DAVIS TEACHERS A 4% COST-OF-LIVING RAISE

Davis County teachers will get a 4 percent cost-of-living salary increase under a new one-year contract with the Davis County School District.

The full package involves a total boost of 8.48 percent, which includes improvements in longevity pay, lane changes (more money for getting more education) and insurance, all of which, plus the extra pay, account for 6.62 percent of the increase.The rest is an automatic boost in Social Security.

The package has been unanimously approved by the school board and ratified by 90 percent of the teachers who voted on the issue.

"We did feel it was the best we could do, given the other needs that our district has," said Vik Arnold, president of the Davis Education Association.

Under the new plan, a beginning teacher who received $18,583 last year now will get $19,211. A veteran teacher with a master's degree who last year got $34,153 now will get $35,303.

However, Arnold noted that only about half of the teachers qualify for the longevity "step" pay. "Most teachers are stuck in what we call the dead zone. After about 13 years, they don't receive any more longevity increases until the 20th year."

Nonetheless, Arnold said, the overall contract was as good as could be expected given the district's financial circumstances.

"We felt good about the package, although no one is ever happy about having to pay a little more for insurance, which is probably the only area we've had criticism on."

Changes in insurance depend on which plan a teacher chooses, although Arnold said the majority of DEA members are participating in some kind of health maintenance organization.

"Because our premium increase went up 10 percent this year over last year, and that was higher than the state and national average, we agreed to pay 5 percent of the premium and increased our co-payments from $5 to $10," Arnold said.

Previously, the district had paid 100 percent of HMO plans.

This means an average annual extra cost of $250 for those opting for a family HMO plan. For single employees, it would be close to an average of $80 per year more.

Arnold said teachers are happy that the new contract gives elementary teachers more preparation time, increasing from 45 minutes weekly to one hour. "That was a very meaningful part of our overall package," Arnold said, adding that it has support from secondary as well as elementary teachers.

The DEA has about 2,000 members.

Steve Ronnenkamp, assistant superintendent, agreed the contract was fair, although he said it would be nice if the district had more money to give teachers higher raises and better pay in general.

"I think our approach has always been to give teachers everything we possibly can," Ronnenkamp said. "We value our employees, and our teachers do an excellent job. Their productivity is phenomenal."