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BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Stafford County's School Board set employee raises as its No. 1 priority this budget season. But given the complicated nature of teachers' salary structure, giving raises isn't so straightforward.
Tuesday night, School Board members debated two options for putting more money in teachers' pockets.
One option would give the employees a step increase--which is about 2.5 percent more pay on average--and a 6 percent raise.
The other option would give employees an across-the-board 6.5 percent raise without moving employees up a step on the salary scales.
Of the 6 percent and 6.5 percent raises, 4 percent would cover increased costs of the employees' contribution to the Virginia Retirement System.
As for the remaining part of the raises, board members are debating which type of raise would be better for the school system.
Steps are marks on the salary scale. In theory, employees move up a step for each year of service. For example, a teacher with four years of experience would be on the fourth step.
But in the past few years, the School Board has rarely given step increases as members have tried to deal with rising needs and static budgets. Teachers got a 1 percent raise in the budget that took effect in July 2012, but they didn't see more money, as that raise was to cover the state-mandated increased contributions to VRS. The last step increase took effect in July 2011.
So employees are now two steps behind; a teacher with four years of experience is now on the second step.
"We need to get back on track with those steps," board member Patricia Healy said Tuesday night.
But Nanette Kidby said that step increases don't improve the overall salary scale--step increases help individual teachers, but the level of pay attached to each step stays the same.
So, Kidby said, approving step increases won't help Stafford schools offer competitive pay.
"If we want to be competitive out in the market, we need to change the scale," Kidby said. "I'm not suggesting our employees don't deserve a step increase, but a step increase does not make us competitive."
If board members choose the option with the across-the-board raise, then employees will be three steps behind--but the pay for each step would be greater.