San Luis Coastal employees getting pay increases

Teachers in the San Luis Coastal Unified School District will receive a 6.6 percent raise over the next three years, and nonteaching employees, such as secretaries, bus drivers and custodial staff, will get 7 percent over the next two years.

The school board has ratified agreements with all of its employee groups and top managers.

The raises come as the district has increased class sizes, eliminated a longstanding program for adults with disabilities and offered the first early retirement incentive in nearly a decade to help lower costs.

The pay increases will cost the district about $3.6 million, according to Personnel Director Ryan Pinkerton.

Teachers who are now at the top of the pay scale will receive a salary of $92,225, if all raises go through. When retirement and health contributions are included, such teachers total compensation will be $114,099.

San Luis Coastal — the county’s second-largest school system with 7,200 students — runs public schools in San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Los Osos and Avila Beach.

Unlike most school districts in San Luis Obispo County, which receive state funding based on attendance, the majority of San Luis Coastal’s revenue comes from property taxes. Considered a “basic aid” district, it has a $72 million general fund budget this fiscal year.

The district has offered an early retirement incentive to its teachers. How much they receive depends on the number of teachers who retire: 30 or fewer teachers will trigger a $30,000 bonus per instructor; up to 39 teachers will receive $40,000 each; for 40 teachers or more, each retiree will get a $50,000 boost.

Teachers have until Jan. 30 to decide, but the district’s early estimates show that at least 40 teachers are likely to take the deal.

Pinkerton has said if that occurs, the incentive program will save the district $2 million to $5 million in coming years.

Management employees such as high school principals, directors and assistant superintendents who qualify will receive the same amount as teachers if they choose to take the incentive. Pinkerton said he anticipates seven will do so.

In a rare move, the school board made a deal with Assistant Superintendent Russell Miller, in charge of business services, that will allow him to take the “golden handshake” in June 2014 if he agrees to work until then.

Miller, 61, was ready to retire but the school board isn’t ready to let him go.

“We really felt that because one of our school board goals is financial stewardship and strong leadership in the business side of the house, it was very important to keep him on,” said Chris Ungar, school board president.

Ungar said board members also wanted Miller’s 12 years of experience to aid the district as it transitions into a new set of initiatives approved by the board last year. The initiatives are aimed at increasing test scores and putting the focus of the district into classrooms and their needs.

The 10 initiatives include improving technology in classrooms, increasing the number of students qualified for the University of California and California State University systems, and strengthening students’ experiences at school by making it a more inclusive environment.

“We really felt strongly that we wanted to encourage him to stay,” Ungar said.

Miller accepted the offer, saying it was a tough decision both for the board and him.

He received a 5 percent raise, bringing his salary to $183,715.

“When you do this kind of sweeping change as we are with the initiatives, you have to closely manage the money,” Miller said. “It is going to do great things for student achievement, but it is also a lot of money, and if you don’t have your finger on it, then the money tends to get handed out a little too freely.”

The board also approved a new two-year contract with Assistant Superintendent Rick Robinett, who received a 5 percent raise this fiscal year and 2 percent the next year, and a three-year contract with Superintendent Eric Prater.

Prater was given a 6 percent raise retroactive to July, bringing his salary to $183,804. His total compensation is $218,023. A clause was also written into his contract that the district will contribute $30,000 to a supplemental retirement plan if he is still employed with the district in 2015. Ungar said the raises will be offset by savings generated from those who take the early retirement incentive.

“Are we paying our teachers well?” Ungar said. “Yes, we are. If we get an elementary teacher opening we can expect to get up to 50 applicants and be able to pick and choose the best.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

Details of the agreements

Teachers in the San Luis Coastal Teachers Association will receive a total increase of 6.6 percent over a three-year period: 2 percent salary increase this fiscal year, which started in July; 1.6 percent increase for three required staff development days; and a 3 percent raise if a new teacher evaluation system is launched.

Nonteaching employees in the California School Employees Union, such as para-educators and secretaries, will receive a 5 percent raise starting this fiscal year and a 2 percent increase in 2012-13.

Other nonteaching employees in the Service Employees International Union, which includes bus drivers and custodial staff, will receive a 5 percent raise retroactive to July 1 and a 2 percent increase in 2012-13.

Management such as principals, directors and supervisors, signed a two-year agreement and will receive a 6.5 percent salary increase from the beginning of the calendar year.