RICHMOND -- The West Contra Costa school district board ratified a three-year contract with its teachers Wednesday evening, calling for 2 percent annual increases in compensation.
The teachers' bargaining unit, the United Teachers of Richmond, will determine how to spread the increases over salaries and benefits, according to union President Diane Brown.
The deal is retroactive to the beginning of the 2012-13 school year and extends through the end of 2014-15. There are reopeners that allow for further negotiations, particularly if the district receives more state money, Brown said.
The board unanimously ratified the contract.
Earlier this spring, the district pulled board consideration of the contract off a meeting agenda after teachers rejected essentially the same agreement.
Teachers haven't had a raise in six years, Brown said.
"It was the same offer that was somewhat repackaged," she said. "We expected the district to do better. We have some of the lowest-paid teachers in the area."
Trustee Todd Groves said he thinks teachers are losing ground financially to inflation, including rapidly rising contributions to health benefits, but the deal was all the district could afford.
"We were trying to be as generous as fiscally prudent," he said. "We're trying to get to the point where working in West Contra Costa doesn't have to be a sacrifice."
The board also listened to a report from John Whitehurst of the San Francisco-based Whitehurst/Moser political campaign firm about an advocacy effort the board is sponsoring to try to raise property tax assessments.
Whitehurst said total assessments in Contra Costa County fell 18.81 percent between 2009 and 2012, sharply cutting into property tax revenues for school districts and other public agencies.
However, median home sales prices in Contra Costa County, on which property taxes are based, have risen from $220,000 in January 2009 to $345,700 in February of this year, Whitehurst said.
About 186,000 Contra Costa properties received reductions in property valuations from 2008 through 2011, but only 2,837 have had those valuations fully restored as the housing market has rebounded, he said.
West Contra Costa has scheduled a public meeting on the issue on June 19 with Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer, according to the district. The meeting will be part of the regularly scheduled board meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. at Lavonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond.
The cost of the campaign, which will target elected officials and residents, will depend on how much work is performed, according to Whitehurst.
"I don't think we've set a dollar limit on it," Groves said.
Whitehurst/Moser has worked for the district in the past to promote construction bond and parcel tax measures.
Associate Superintendent of Business Sheri Gamba told the board she is optimistic about the benefits that will accrue to the district if the so-called Local Control Funding Formula advocated by Gov. Jerry Brown passes the state Legislature.
The plan, which would target low-income districts for increased funding, could mean up to $8 million or more in extra money for West Contra Costa, Gamba said.
The district is projecting a deficit of $6 million for 2013-14 under the current funding formula that it plans to cover by drawing on reserves.