Teachers, counselors and librarians in Lawrence public schools voted overwhelmingly Friday to ratify a one-year contract that won tentative approval earlier this week.
The Lawrence school board will take up the contract Monday.
The pact, agreed upon by representatives of the Lawrence Education Assn. and the school board, would provide the district's 900 teachers with an average 4.7 percent increase in salary and fringe benefits in 2001-2002.
"I think it's an excellent contract this year," said Al Gyles, LEA's chief negotiator and a math teacher at Free State High School.
Individual pay raises would vary according to professional experience and educational advancement.
The deal increases the district's personnel costs by $1.5 million over this year.
The base salary was raised $300 to $22,549. Teachers sought a $520 base increase and the district offered $220. They compromised at $300.
The first two "steps" on the pay scale were eliminated. New teachers without experience now start on Step 3, but remain there three years.
Health insurance benefits were trimmed, but the district increased its contribution for an individual policy to $206 from $186 a month. The district will pay the same, plus $150, for a family policy.
A plan to issue the district's new teachers their first check in August won't be possible because state law prohibits payment prior to Sept. 1. Teachers currently wait until Sept. 20 to get their first paycheck.
While the district is adding $1.5 million in teacher compensation next year, only $700,000 of that amount was appropriated by the 2001 Legislature. Internal reallocation, an administrative staff downsizing and property tax increase will make up the difference.
Supt. Randy Weseman said next year's legislative session didn't look promising in terms of meaningful funding increases for public education. Internal reallocation will again be required to generate money for teacher salaries, he said.
"We want our salary system to be in the top 10 in the state," Weseman said. "People need to realize what it all means."
He said the district's budget committee would analyze non-mandated programs and examine course offerings to find places to trim expenditures. Savings could be reinvested in the district, he said.