Of course, the Union is insisting that teachers be able to continue receiving these annual increases automatically. This way, the Union can simply drag out the bargaining process into the next school year and guarantee that the teachers will get salary increases - automatically - even though the Boards have not agreed to them.
If we do not change the contract, the Districts will face the prospect of paying automatic step increases at the end of every contract. The Boards believe all salary increases should be negotiated for each year. If not, the Boards will never be able to adjust their budgets to meet the needs of the taxpayers.
Because of the current requirement to pay step increases automatically, the Boards have been paying these increases since the beginning of the school year. In a last ditch effort to reach a settlement, the Boards proposed that these increases be continued as for the entire school year. This will provide the vast majority of our teachers with increases ranging from 2.25% to 4.5%, depending on their years of experience and level of education. The average increase is 2.5%.
About 25 of our 187 teachers are not receiving an increase this year, because they have reached the top of the salary schedule. The maximum teacher salary is $72,625. Most of these teachers could earn additional salary increases by taking more college courses, which are paid for by the Districts.
The Union is insisting that every teacher receive a 2.9% salary increase for this school year. The Boards just do not believe such an increase is appropriate given the effect the economy is having on our taxpayers and the deficits in the State's education funding.
The union employees for the State of Vermont recognized these realities when they accepted a 3% pay cut for this year and a pay freeze for next year. Our own school administrators have done their part by accepting salary freezes both this year and last year. In light of these facts, the Boards believe an average increase of 2.5% for the teachers is very fair.