AUBURN — Auburn teachers have a new labor contract that gives them no raises this year, but they will get raises next year and some will get make-up step raises.

The contract is “a placeholder,” Auburn Education Association President Bill Reilley said.

“We’re pleased we could resolve a bridge contract for teachers,” Superintendent Katy Grondin said.

Citing a difficult budget process last summer, she said, “Our teachers carried a large burden of holding the tax burden down. I’m pleased we could come to a contract next year so their wages can reflect an increase.”

No raises are being given in 2013-14 because last summer, after Auburn voters rejected the school budget two times, $500,000 targeted for raises was cut from the budget to reduce spending.

Voters passed the budget on the third vote.

The union “didn’t have a choice” on the action, Reilley said. “There were people who were unhappy last fall.” At that point, the negotiations broke down, but talks soon resumed to figure out what to do about the contract that expired Aug. 31.

“Teachers have been working without a contract since then,” Reilley said. “Teachers have been very responsible. We’ve kept negotiating to try to resolve some of the issues.”

For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014, the new contract will make up some of the ground, giving teachers a 2 percent salary increase and two step raises to eligible teachers. That will represent a $642,638 increase to salaries in the 2014-15 budget, Grondin said.

“This proposal takes us through August 2015,” Reilley said. “Next year, what they have offered and we’ve accepted is a 2 percent raise on the base salaries. And people who lost their step this year will get two steps next year.”

The idea of step raises is to allow new teachers to be hired at lower salaries, who then learn on the job. As their experience grows, so does their pay.

“The steps are quite important,” Reilley said. A step raise can add anywhere between $900 to $2,000 to a teacher’s annual pay, Reilley said. About two-thirds of teachers in Auburn get step raises; the other third have reached the top of the scale.

There are 19 pay steps for teachers, one for each year of work through 19 years of experience.

A new teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience will earn $30,000 this year, $30,600 next year.

A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 19 years of experience will earn $51,923 this year, $52,961 next year. Teachers with 30 years of experience earn $51,923.

“The only time they get an increase is the 2 percent,” or cost-of-living raise, Grondin said.

This year, teachers are not getting step raises, “but next year, we’re making that whole again so they’re not behind,” Grondin said.

Meanwhile, union and school officials will continue to meet trying to resolve language issues in the contract.

“Auburn is doing the whole customized learning,” which means new ways of teaching geared toward the needs of individualized students, Reilley said. “It’s not an easy process.” 

School officials are asking for a change in hours and professional development outside of normal student hours. “We have concerns about that. This gives us 18 months.”

Teachers want more decision-making ability at individual school level, Reilley said. As an example, he said the times and dates of open houses tend to be districtwide.

Teachers would like to see individual schools decide on when an open house would be best for them.

“Give the buildings more decisions,” Reilley said.

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