Board gives school employees their first raise since 2007

More than 1,000 school employees in the Merced area got their first raise in six years Tuesday night.

The Merced City School District Board of Education gave 1,069 staff members a 2 percent raise retroactive to July and a one-time bonus of 2.1 percent. Beginning in June, teachers will have an additional 3 percent tacked onto the salary schedule.

It will cost the 17-campus district that serves more than 10,000 students an additional $1.6 million to grant the raises to teachers and administrators during the current school year. In the 2014-15 school year, the raises will cost the district $1.4 million.

“(The teachers) saw us through some really tough times in the last six years,” board member Susan Walsh said. “Everybody did their best, put their shoulder to the wheel without a whimper. I’m delighted we can agree to these raises and begin to address a loss in buying power.”

Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for business services, said the agreement covers 477 teachers, 470 classified or nonteaching employees, and 122 managers and workers not represented by a union.

A beginning teacher will earn $42,036 a year while a teacher with 25 years’ service will earn $85,573 annually. A teacher with 75 additional college units beyond a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree will earn $81,223 a year.

“Yes, they are well-paid compared to others but nobody’s getting rich in public service,” Walsh said. “People are saying we should pay less. We want to attract and keep good people. Our commitment is to be a good employer.”

Superintendent RoseMary Parga Duran said it takes a year of negotiations to come up with an agreement. She called the negotiators unsung heroes and was grateful for the mutual respect shown during the bargaining sessions.

“For six years we were cutting and hunkering down,” Duran said. “Now we can afford to loosen up and give well-deserved raises.”

Dora Crane, president of the 464-member Merced City Teachers Association, said the association is pleased with the outcome of negotiations. Union members voted unanimously to accept the agreement.

“I’m just grateful the district was able to offer to do this,” Crane said. “The teachers have worked hard and haven’t had any raises since 2007.”

Board President Darrell Cherf said the raises represent a fair agreement between the different employee groups and the district has been consistent.

Everybody got the same raise, including the superintendent, board member Gene Stamm said.

Board member Adam Cox was pleased with the raises.

“When times were really tough for school districts, every group gave up money out of their pockets, tightened their belts for districts to stay solvent,” Cox said. “It was entirely appropriate now to make it right and I am happy we can do that.”

The agreement includes a one-time restoration of out-of-pocket increases in medical benefit premiums for last July through September. Negotiations with MCTA ended Nov. 6 and Dec. 5 with California School Employees Association Chapter 530.

It will cost the district $544,569 to implement the raises for classified employees during the current fiscal year and $832,935 for the 2014-15 fiscal year.