By Thea Skinner

Triplicate staff writer

Del Norte County Unified School District solidified teacher pay increases at a meeting of the minds Thursday.

The school board approved the 3.5 percent cost of living pay increase for association members.

andquot;The actual salary schedule shows that compensation, also called salary, includes health, welfare and retirement,andquot; Rodney Jahn, deputy superintendent, said.

He indicated that the agreement includes an increase in the class sizes at Del Norte High School to 35 students per class. Jahn also discussed the cost of the agreement to the district over several years.

andquot;There is plenty of money for the first year. The problem is addressing the ongoing (salary), and that is why we needed to increase the class size,andquot; he said.

Cost analysis showed that the salary increase would affect the county fund by $104,871.32 and the district general fund by $873,710 annually.

Board member Bill Parker raised a concern centered around the possible closing of an elementary school based on low enrollment at the elementary level. andquot;If we lose 300 students what would happen to us?andquot;

Jahn assured Parker that andquot;We would have a built-in cushion (of money). Based on my projections we will not have a reduction.andquot;

In about 2 years, we will see the bottom of declining enrollment. I think there are enough cost savings that can be built in that we will be okay.andquot;

Board member Bob Berkowitz voiced his concern as well. andquot;It worries me a little that there is a slim margin for error,andquot; he said.

Jahn replied, andquot;As a part of this process we have sent this information to The California Department of Education. The comment from them is that our district is not a qualified district and (an official there) has no problem with the board taking action that it feels is necessary tonight.andquot;

Taking this infomation into consideration the board unanimously approved the teachers association pay increase. The board will next consider recommendations for text books to purchase.

They get state money for books and have some savings for it, according to Jahn.

The books the board is considering would cost about $1,000 per classroom of 20 students, and about $3,500 per classroom of 30, according to Don Olson, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

This may mean tens of thousands in spending costs for the district.

Reach Thea Skinner at