BROOKSVILLE — After months of negotiating and a week of voting, Hernando County teachers have overwhelmingly ratified a new contract that includes an average raise of nearly $1,850 this school year and paves the way for performance-based increases for all teachers beginning next year.
Roughly 90 percent of the district's instructional personnel who cast ballots — 1,018 — supported the measure. About 10 percent — 108 — voted against the measure, according to an announcement by Hernando Classroom Teachers Association officials at Tuesday night's School Board meeting.
"I think that the teachers were clear in their vote that they're supporting this," said union president Jo Ann Hartge.
Shortly after the announcement, School Board members unanimously approved the contract.
The pact now goes to the state Department of Education for approval.
The district will soon distribute roughly $3.6 million in raise money for instructional personnel, which is their cut of $480 million allocated for raises statewide during the 2013 legislative session.
District officials estimate the money will appear in April 21 paychecks, barring any delays at the state level.
Hernando teachers will see an average salary jump of $1,844, with a range of $1,710 to $1,910 — an amount that is slightly higher than projected in February when an agreement was first reached at the bargaining table.
"As far as retaining and recruiting teachers, I think that puts Hernando County in a really good position," Hartge said.
The raises amount to roughly 3.7 percent and come on top of the $1.8 million in automatic step raises doled out in September, said Heather Martin, the district's executive director of business services.
In all, the district's instructional personnel stand to see a roughly 5 percent pay bump this year, she said.
But the raise money is just part of the contract.
The creation of a performance pay schedule for 2014-15 dramatically changes how teachers will get raises in the future.
Hernando County teachers have long received pay raises based on their experience. Now, all employees will move up a single salary schedule based on performance evaluations. The exact amount will be subject to annual negotiations.
Hernando teachers no longer will receive automatic step increases.
Both teachers union and district officials lauded the salary schedule, saying it is fiscally responsible and gives teachers greater earning potential over the long haul.
"(Teachers) have the opportunity for advancement, especially at the top," Hartge said. "Now they're going to have the opportunity to increase their bonus."
Hartge said the single salary schedule would continue to protect teachers with "professional service contracts," commonly known as tenure.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.