OGDEN -- The Weber School District has approved a 3 percent pay raise for its teachers and administrators after a month of negotiations with the Weber Education Association and the Weber Administrator's Association.
Teachers and administrators will get the pay rate increase, effective Oct. 1, but will be required to absorb the full cost of an expected insurance rate hike. The district is still in negotiations with insurance providers, so the amount of the rate increase is still to be determined.
"The teachers are very pleased with the settlement this year," said Marlene Irons, WEA president. "We appreciate our school board for being up front, and having good faith bargaining with us."
Linda Carver, Weber School District assistant superintendent, said she has gotten a lot of positive feedback as well.
"I can tell you teachers are thrilled," said. "I have been told by many teachers they are thrilled and grateful we could do this as a district."
Also restored in the newly ratified contract are lanes and steps. Lanes reward employees who have earned advanced education degrees, and steps reward employees for various levels of years of service. Lane and step increases are not funded in all school years and were not available last year, Carver said.
The district was able to give the pay increase because of previous economic sacrifices, Carver said. The district is operating on a skeleton staff compared to what it used to have, with at least six fewer employees than it had in recent years.
"We have an extremely lean district staff," she said. "It's put a tremendous amount of pressure on people, but we still deliver. We've cut, long past cutting any fat. We are cutting half the heart and the liver."
The Weber School Board also has been careful in spending, Carver said.
"The school board has been very diligent in making cuts, and in making certain that one-time money has not been used in meeting ongoing expenses, and they haven't put money in areas that don't directly impact the students," she said.
An early reading program targeting students in kindergarten through third grade was not cut because it sets a strong foundation for learning, Carver said. The district spends money to maintain its student-to-teacher and its student-to-counselor ratios, also vital to learning and to troubleshooting, Carver said.
But the district did not fund, or elected to delay, building modernization and some repairs. And rather than buy new school buses to replace the aging fleet, the district invested in extra maintenance and repairs.
"Our transportation shop has been amazing in keeping our older buses running," Carver said. "We have some of the oldest fleet buses in the state."
The district has cut the number of paid teacher development days used for training and preparation, Carver said. That cut has cost teachers the money they would have otherwise received for those days. In addition, teachers and administrative employees have not had raises for three years, with some subgroups going five years without increases.
Some of the funding the Utah Legislature earmarked for growing districts will be applied to covering raises, Carver said, but most will come from the ongoing surplus in funds.
"With the reduction in days and the increase in insurance costs, and because of past reductions in their salary, teachers will probably see very little increase, if any, in take-home pay because of this raise," Carver said.
"I will say it's been a difficult time for employees, and I know it's been difficult for the entire world, for the United States and for the state of Utah. We are mindful of that. We are just trying to offset some of our employees' losses. Even through it's been difficult, teacher morale has been high and they have still provided an incredible service to our students."