THOUSAND OAKS — Conejo Valley teachers got a 6% raise and a refund of excess health insurance premiums Tuesday night in a unanimous vote by the school board.
The raise ensures that Conejo Valley Unified School District's 850 teachers will remain the best paid in Ventura County, according to county education officials.
The raise, which is retroactive to July 1 and lasts through June, increases annual pay for beginning teachers to $32,640. Base pay for experienced teachers rises to $58,889.
In addition, school district counselors, psychologists, adult-school teachers, home teachers, substitute teachers, test proctors, campus supervisors, student helpers, district managers and supervisors also were awarded the same salary increases in separate votes on Tuesday.
The 6% raise comes from two sources: 3.5% from the general fund that saw a state increase last year stemming from good economic times, and 2.5% from a surplus in the employees' health and welfare fund.
Normally, teachers' raises mirror the cost-of-living adjustments, which are 2% to 3% annually, officials said.
Stan Mantooth, Ventura County's assistant superintendent of business services, acknowledged the large raises were unusual.
But Mantooth said that over the last three years, the economy has been good to the schools, mainly because they have been able to reap a larger share of property taxes thanks to Proposition 98 passed by California voters in 1988.
Don't expect the good times to last forever, Mantooth warned. "The trend usually lasts in eight- to 10-year cycles," he said.
Until then, however, Conejo Valley continues to benefit from extra money accumulated over the years in its health and welfare fund, which provides health insurance.
Since Conejo Valley's school district is large enough to be self-insured and its teachers have contributed more in premiums than they have used in medical expenses, there has been a surplus built up over the last two years, said Gary Mortimer, assistant superintendent for business services.
As a result, on top of their 6% raises this year, teachers got a 2% bonus, which is more accurately described as a refund from the health and welfare fund, Mortimer said.
Last year, teachers got a 4.2% raise, plus the same 2% refund.
Teachers in at least one neighboring school district hope raises in Thousand Oaks will help them negotiate higher pay as well.
"Whatever Conejo gets is good for us," said Ginny Jannotto, president of the Simi Educators Assn. "It just shows the [Simi Valley] board the value of teachers being highly paid."
While slightly larger than Conejo Valley, the Simi Valley district pays teachers from $2,800 to $7,100 a year less, with the larger gap affecting teachers with more experience.
In June, the union settled a two-year contract that gives Simi Valley teachers a 7% pay increase this year and a 6% raise next year.