By Thea Skinner

Triplicate staff writer

Teachers and classified employees voted overwhelmingly to ratify the Del Norte Teachers Association pay increase earlier this week.

The association and the district agreed in March to an on-going 3.5 percent salary increase instead of one lump sum. The agreement is beneficial in the long term, as retirement money is based on the amount a person is earning at the time of retirement.

According to Mike Mealue, Del Norte Teachers Association president, the district reiterated their justification that the final settlement will be affordable over the next three years to the state Department of Education.

This justification was originally made in the Del Norte County Office of Education and Unified School District Disclosure of Collective Bargaining Agreement Impacts report.

The report states that andquot;The board has already taken steps over the last two years to reduce the District's reliance on the Forest Reserve funding and will therefore be able to maintain the reserve with some budget cuts for 2007 and 2008, but not requiring major layoffs or service reductions.andquot;

andquot;Salary increases for the third year of the contract will be negotiated once the estimated Cost-of-Living-Allowances (COLA) and estimated health plan cost increases for those years are known.andquot;

The association is comprised of certificated members, which include teachers, psychologists, special education teachers, counselors and others. These certificated members are support staff with a 4-year college degree.

The next step to make the ratification a reality will take place when the state hears the justification and considers it for approval on April 26.

Reach Thea Skinner, at or 707-464-2141.