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SOUTH JORDAN — Contingent on a property tax increase and ratification by the teacher association, Jordan School District will pay starting teachers $48,000 next fall, offer some $4.5 million in teacher incentive grants and teachers will not have any increase in health insurance premiums.
Without the tax increase, starting pay for teachers would be $45,000 annually, $5,000 below what neighboring Canyons and Murray school districts will pay starting teachers next fall.
One significant difference in Jordan District's offer is that the teacher pay schedule, which rewards teachers for education attainment and longevity, has no caps. Each step increase will be $875.
"I don't know another district that's done that," Jordan School Board President Bryce Dunford, said Wednesday during a presentation for teachers at Elk Ridge Middle School.
Beyond that, the offer contemplates a minimum pay raise of $2,200 and as much as $5,300 with the tax increase.
Jordan School District property owners would pay $18 more in property tax for every $100,000 in assessed value of their homes or businesses under the proposal. For example, property taxes on a residence assessed at $400,000 would go up $72 a year if the school board votes to raise taxes to fund the pay increases.
Dunford said the school board will reach out to the community to seek their input about the proposed property tax increase. Under state law, the board is required to conduct a Truth in Taxation hearing before it can raise its board levy. That will occur in August and the board will then decide whether to move forward with the tax increase.
A property tax hike resulting from an increase in the board's levy does not require voter approval, but Dunford said the school board wants to fully vet the proposal with taxpayers before taking action.
While the proposed raises appeared to set well with the audience of about 50 teachers who attended the first of two meetings Wednesday, many educators said they would prefer that the district shift incentive pay to the salary schedule instead.
Incentive pay is offered through competitive grants submitted by teachers. For the coming year, the maximum award will be increased to $5,000 per qualifying teacher, up from $3,000, although on average, most will be around $3,000. This school year, $3 million was available for incentive grants and the proposal increases it to $4.5 million next year.
The incentive pay is not contingent on a tax increase, Dunford said.
Several teachers in the audience questioned why they must "jump through hoops" to receive incentive pay. Others said there was insufficient guidance how to qualify for the grants last year and some people who invested a lot of time in developing proposals received nothing.
Dunford acknowledged the program was new and the process is still being refined.
Dunford said the goal is to reward excellent teaching and single out teachers who go the extra mile from those who arrive shortly before the school day starts and leave as soon as possible once the school day ends.
"What it does is push us forward," he said.
But several teachers in the audience disagreed.
"Why do we have to be innovative to get paid? Why can't we get paid for what we do?" asked one educator who did not want to speak on the record.
Jonathan Lawes, a veteran middle school math teacher, said he believes the school board has a tough task as it attempts to attract new teachers, retain experienced teachers and provide incentives to teachers who go above and beyond their peers.
However, it is somewhat troubling that newer teachers don't qualify for incentive pay, Lawes said.
"The people who do more should be paid more," he said.
Even without the tax increase, the $45,000 starting pay that Jordan District proposes is higher than the $43,483 offered by Granite School District.
However, Granite District officials say its benefits package is more robust than other school districts' and teachers pay less out of pocket for health care coverage because its program is self-funded.
Granite District recently opened the Granite Wellness Center, which provides comprehensive medical and pharmaceutical services for all contract employees and their dependents at no cost.