Teachers in New Jersey will get an average raise of 2.4 percent for 2012-13, according to data compiled by the New Jersey School Boards Association.
But more than a third of all school districts have settlements at 2 percent or lower this year. School districts and teachers’ unions are grappling with the state’s 2 percent cap on property-tax increases and the new requirement that teachers pay 1.5 percent toward their health benefits.
“Our teachers have started to pay into their benefits this month for the first time, so this will have an impact on salaries,” said Michelle Cappelluti, superintendent in Hamilton Township, where the contract expired in June and both sides are still in negotiations.
New Jersey Education Association spokesman Steve Baker said settlements tend to follow the economy, but as the economy recovers, the property-tax cap will make it difficult for school boards to respond in kind.
Teacher contracts typically run for three years, with about one-third of the state’s districts coming up each year. This year, about 160 districts remain in negotiations, with 107 having contracts that expired in June and 53 having contracts that expired in June 2011 or earlier.
Local districts that have already settled are in the 2 percent range.
Woodbine teachers will get 2 percent raises each year of their three-year contract. The district also moved from a private health care plan to the state health benefits plan, Superintendent Lynda Anderson-Towns said.
The median teacher’s salary in the district in 2011-12 was $64,493, according to the 2012 Department of Education Taxpayers Guide to Education Spending.
The median salary represents the salary that is in the middle of all teachers, with half earning more and half earning less. In districts that are growing or have a lot of turnover, median salaries tend to be lower. In districts that are not hiring many new teachers, median salaries are higher. Salaries are also affected by the district salary guide, which determines how much a salary will increase each year and how long it takes to get to the top salary.
The average salary statewide in 2011-12 was $59,225 in K-8 districts and $62,665 in K-12 districts, the state spending guide said. Charter schools had the lowest average salary of $49,596. Special services schools, which teach severely disabled students, had the highest average teacher salary of $70,893.
West Cape May settled a new contract last spring with average raises of 1.75 percent this year, then 2 percent for the next two years. Superintendent Alfred Savio said the teachers understood the fiscal constraints under the tax-levy cap. The median teacher’s salary there in 2011-12 was $50,297.
In Wildwood, teachers will get 1.5 percent this year, 2.15 percent next year and 2 percent in the third year of the contract. The median salary is $67,887.
Margate’s new contract, approved in July, comes with a 2.49 percent salary increase in each of the three years. The median salary there is $83,820.
Ocean City’s contract expired in June 2011 and has gone to state fact-finding, school and union officials said. A meeting is scheduled for this month. Neither side would comment specifically on the negotiations.
The district is highly regarded, and teachers there have traditionally been well-paid. The state spending guide shows Ocean City has the second highest median teacher salary in the state, at $88,434.
The starting salary there for 2010-11, the last year of the contract, was $46,815 for a new teacher with just a bachelor’s degree. According to the most recent salary guide, those teachers will get to $78,000 after 13 years, then receive annual longevity pay, which ranges from $2,000 to a high of $8,000 after 26 years in the district.
Other districts still reported to be in negotiations include Absecon, Buena Regional, Greater Egg Harbor Regional and Pleasantville in Atlantic County; Cape May and Middle Township in Cape May County; Bridgeton, Millville and Vineland in Cumberland County; and Barnegat Township and Long Beach Island Consolidated in Ocean County.
Buena Regional Superintendent Walter Whitaker said the district has gone to state mediation and that money is the biggest issue. State data show the median salary there is $69,440.
Greater Egg Harbor Regional and Absecon have also gone to mediation. The median salary in Greater Egg is $60,250. In Absecon, the median teacher salary is $69,987.
A few districts have tentative agreements that still need to be ratified, including Lawrence and Maurice River townships in Cumberland County.
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