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Davis County teachers will receive a cost-of-living increase of 4.4 percent next year, the biggest in many years, according to a proposed contract settlement between the school district and the Davis Education Association.

DEA school representatives and the general DEA membership will vote on the settlement this week.The hefty adjustment partially resulted from this year's legislative increase in its weighted pupil funding formula.

Another factor was the association's partial trade-off between salary and health-care benefits. The insurance payment for routine dental work was decreased from 90 percent to 80 percent to help fund the salary hike.

"In the past we've made some difficult choices regarding health care," said DEA President Kalyn Denny. "To be able to get to 4.4 we lowered (benefits) . . . Salary increase was definitely our No. 1 priority."

Cost-of-living adjustments in recent years have ranged from 4 percent in the past two years to 1 percent in 1992.

"We are committed to providing our teaching staff with the highest salary and benefits level our budget will allow," said assistant superintendent Stephen Ronnenkamp.

This is the second year in a row the district and teachers association have reached an agreement before the end of the school year. In each of the four years before that, negotiations dragged into the summer, sometimes threatening to run into the next school year.

"The association and the district have been increasingly concerned to have negotiations (not) go through the summer," Denny said. She added that one of the reasons for this year's early settlement was the early (March) negotiation starting date.

Another part of the settlement officials are touting is a one-time $100 classroom material supplement for individual teachers. Davis is one of the first districts to include such a supplement, though there's no guarantee it will be continued in years to come.

The supplement will be added to the approximately $130 classroom material payment the teachers will receive from the state.

First-year teachers will get an additional $100, making their total classroom material pot about $330.

"There are so many costs involved in starting up a classroom," Denny said. "Many basic starting materials are not available (from the district)."

Other contract items include extending health care insurance coverage for retirees, clarifying planning time for elementary teachers, and extending use of sick leave for adoptive parents to spend time with their newly adopted children.

"That's a big win," Denny said. "There are only six or seven a year, but for those people who are actually adopting a child it's a big issue."