ANTIOCH -- A growing number of Antioch Unified teachers are voicing their displeasure about not receiving pay raises despite the district having a sizable reserve fund.
Over the past few months, teachers have been attending district board meetings and urged trustees to give them a raise.
About 60 teachers crowded into the district board room this week, with almost all of them holding colorful papers that read "It's time!"
Antioch Unified has just over $31.2 million in unrestricted reserves and about $3 million in restricted reserves, according to its latest budget report released in September. The money has been saved up because of uncertainty in revenues the district receives from the state, Superintendent Donald Gill said.
"We knew that the lean years were coming," Gill said. "We wanted to make sure we had as much stability as possible, so we didn't have to have furlough days or salary rollbacks."
That amount grew because the district has been able to leverage other funds to maintain programs and services, he said.
Meanwhile, Antioch teachers say they have received just one salary hike in the past six years, a 1 percent increase four years ago. The amount teachers have to pay for medical benefits for their families is also slated to increase in January, said Lenore Navarro, a Kimball Elementary teacher and member of the bargaining unit for the Antioch Education Association.
"It's a virtual pay cut," she told trustees
Negotiations between the two sides, which have been going on since October 2011, continued Thursday.
The base salary scale for Antioch teachers ranges from about $36,000 to $80,000, depending on the number of years in the district and credits earned. For example, that range for a teacher with 10 years in the district is between $67,152 and $75,840,
Salary increases kick in each year based on tenure and experience, according to the district's salary schedule.
Several teachers spoke at the board meeting, sharing personal stories of how increased living expenses are causing them hardship.
"You guys keep telling us that we are great teachers and saying the district has great teachers, but it's time to put your money where your mouth is," said Scott Benedict, a special-education teacher at Deer Valley High.
With last week's passage of Proposition 30, a sales and property tax increase, by California voters, teachers say Antioch Unified has no more excuses.
Board President Diane Gibson-Gray pointed out Wednesday that board members appreciated the teachers speaking, but could not comment, especially since negotiations are under way on a new contract.
"It is difficult to hear, and I certainly empathize with their situations," Gibson-Gray said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.