Teachers will get a bit more pay | NevadaAppeal.com

Teachers will get a bit more pay

After making expansive statements in the Finance Committee on Wednesday morning about how he supports raises for teachers, Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, got the chance to put some money where his mouth is just an hour later.

Beers, joined by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, expressed opposition to expanding the all-day kindergarten funding, saying they would have preferred to put the money into teacher salaries instead. He said he has been pushing to use the money for salaries because the teachers want that instead of the kindergarten program.

Although none of the others in the budget negotiating sessions remembered him pushing for that, the claim was highlighted by Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, when the “core group” of negotiators met following the finance committee meeting. She advised the others the legal and fiscal divisions had determined the Fontainebleu hotel project in Las Vegas does not qualify for the sales tax exemptions under Nevada’s “green buildings” law.

The result: Projected sales tax revenues can be increased by the $12 million that project would have received in tax breaks over the next two years.

Saying she agrees with Beers that lawmakers should do more for teachers than the current education budget, Buckley called on them to put that money toward teacher pay raises.

The group, including Beers, agreed.

Buckley said the money is small in terms of the total teacher pay budget. Nearly 80 percent of the more than $1 billion a year in the Distributive School Account goes for teacher salaries.

But she said it will just about erase what those teachers would have lost in their proposed pay raises because of the required increase in the Public Employees Retirement System premium. That increase was projected to eat up a one-tenth or two-tenths of the budgeted 2 percent cost of living raise budgeted for next year.

“This makes the 2 percent a real 2 percent raise,” said Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, who also supported the change.

“PERS is going up and we felt the salary increase should cover that,” said Beers.

Titus, who has protested some of the compromises made with Gov. Jim Gibbons to work out the K-12 and higher education budgets, said this helps relieve her concerns.

Saying she probably would have voted for those budget packages anyway, she said, “I can vote for it a little more cheerfully now.”

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.