The area's largest school district is doing what it couldn't afford for the past four years -- increase pay and benefits for its 3,800 employees.
Superintendent Nicholas Gledich announced the agreement on the compensation package Thursday, accompanied by a group of employees that included two of the district's 1,900 teachers.
Gledich said the $9.3 million package for the upcoming school year includes a one-time "bonus" of 4 percent for teachers, and the return of a paid furlough day for classroom instruction. Other district pay increases range from 10 cents an hour to 1 percent, depending on job title.
The package also provides a 2.8 percent increase to health insurance premiums, and an increase of .08 percent to the retirement fund.
Gledich said the district will pay for the package by using an increase in state funding, other district reserves and money from the sale of excess real estate.
Gledich said district benefits continue to rank below the national average, but the new package is a big step in making the district more competitive with surrounding districts.
Ninety percent of the district's budget is in labor costs for district employees. Gledich said.
The new package received an 82 percent approval rate from the district's teachers -- including Kelly Stroup of Doherty High School.
"My husband is a teacher, as well, and it's been getting harder to make ends meet with so many years of no compensation," said Stroup. "But it's exciting this year that finally, now, we're seeing some changes."
The package is effective July 1.