About 70 percent of the Saline Area School's annual $53 million operating budget goes toward paying employees covered by its current collective bargaining agreement for teachers and a few other employee groups. (The budget figure does not include debt-service payments on past construction projects.) Yet few people know what is in this or other school labor contracts. This description of Saline's is part of an ongoing series.
Saline Area Schools enrolls about 5,400 students and employs about 326 teachers. Teacher salaries are determined by a single salary schedule that creates automatic raises based solely on an employee's years on the job plus additional pedagogy degrees. Although teachers' performance is evaluated once every three years, the evaluations and the performance of their students do not affect the amount they are paid.
Saline teachers get automatic annual pay raises ranging from 4 to 7 percent as they progress through the time-on-the-job "steps" of the salary schedule. In addition to these step increases, all teachers receive a 2.5 percent pay increase as the entire salary schedule grows by that amount each year. The vast majority of teachers in Saline make a base salary that's between $63,331 and $79,089. The average teacher salary was $68,615 in 2008.
The district pays the entire cost of employee health insurance benefits. For a family plan, the cost is $13,634 per teacher per year. The statewide average cost in the private sector for employer-provided health care coverage is $11,300 per employee for a family plan, with the employee picking up 22 percent of that amount.
Teachers choosing not to enroll district's medical plan get an annual $3,100 "cash-in-lieu" payment. The district also deposits $350 into a Health Reimbursement Account for each teacher to use for additional medical expenses.
School employees are entitled to a lifetime pension when they retire, and are also are given lifetime health benefits. Based on the state-run pension system's multiplier, the lifetime pension for a Saline teacher with 30 years of experience and an average base salary of $79,089 (the final "step" on the single salary schedule) would be $35,590. The district also invests $1,200 annually into a tax-sheltered annuity for each teacher who has more than 15 years on the job, and $600 for all others. Teachers can also receive up to $3,000 upon retirement for unused sick leave days, and may qualify for a $7,000 supplemental retirement stipend. An employee may begin collecting a pension immediately upon retiring after the age of 55 or after 30 years of work in public schools.
The union contract also covers working conditions, like the minimum number of days and hours teachers must be at school. Teachers are required to be at school for 183 days out of the year, and 7.5 hours per day. This amounts to 1,373 hours annually. The national average for all professions is 1,792 hours over the span of about 225 work days.
The union contract also includes bonus pay for additional duties. Teacher "mentors" and "transition mentors" are paid $2,021 and $3,200 per year respectively. The 39 different department chairpersons can make up to an additional $3,088 annually. Finally, teachers can earn extra cash by coaching or participating in other extracurricular activities, such as band, drama, yearbook, debate, student clubs and many others. There are nearly 100 different extracurricular positions available to teachers, which pay between $421 and $9,719 annually.