The Miami-Dade School Board last week spent nearly four hours in a closed-door session discussing strategies regarding salary negotiations with unions as well as how to divide the $232 million it hopes to raise should a property tax referendum pass Nov. 6.
More than a week later, those discussions have come to light: Board members agreed that 88 percent would go to teacher salaries and 12 percent will be set aside for hiring more police officers so that every school — including remote buildings — is covered.
Board chair Perla Tabares Hantman said the board’s decision was wise.
“I believe if we get this done, we’ll be able to do what we wanted to do for a long time,” she said.
The announced split means that the district and United Teachers of Dade can enter into bargaining with an idea of how to spend the $204 million on teachers. However, a bargaining session has not yet been scheduled.
United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats expects teachers who have at least an “effective” rating to be receiving at least a $5,000 supplement. Beyond the immediate benefit of fatter paychecks, the supplement would also count toward calculating retirement benefits for the roughly 19,000 teachers who are eligible.
If her estimate is close, there will still be millions more to give to teachers. Some teachers could see larger supplements. With or without the added money from the referendum, the union and district will still negotiate separate raises for teachers.
The average Miami-Dade teacher has worked 13 years in the district and makes $51,819, according to state data. The median salary, however, is $46,174. That can be a challenge because Miami ranks as one of the nation’s least affordable metro areas for educators.
On Wednesday, the School Board voted 8-1 to initially approve an oversight committee for the referendum funds. Board member Mari Tere Rojas proposed an amendment to add a retired teacher and retired law enforcement officer, selected by the board chair, as voting members. That measure passed, although board member Lubby Navarro was the sole dissenting vote.
Navarro said she wanted to remove a stipulation that barred active School Board employees from serving on the committee. She said she wanted to choose a current teacher or police officer as her designee.
“I wanted to make sure the people we were doing this for have a voice,” said Navarro, adding that she would raise the issue again at the second reading.
The oversight committee follows the same template as the committee that oversees the 2012 general obligation bond. Among the voting members: one member and alternate appointed by each board member; two members appointed by the superintendent; Dade County Council PTA/PTSA president or designee; chair of the board’s Audit and Budget Advisory Committee or designee; one member appointed by the NAACP; one member appointed by the Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD); one member appointed by the Business Advisory Council; one member appointed by the Family/Community Involvement Advisory Council.
Among the nonvoting members: inspector general of the district; one member appointed by United Teachers of Dade; one member appointed by the Fraternal Order of Police; one member appointed by the district Student Government Association; one member appointed by the district’s Retirement Benefits Council.
Each member would serve four-year terms and could be reappointed. The committee would go into effect Nov. 20.
The political action committee raising funds for the referendum, Secure Our Future, had raised $121,300 through 20 contributions by the first week of October. Notable donors include Norman Braman, Miami billionaire ($25,000); Donna Shalala, Democratic nominee for Florida’s 27th congressional district, ($1,000); Alex Penelas, former Miami-Dade County mayor ($1,000); Paul Cejas, businessman and former ambassador ($10,000); and Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean International ($1,000).
The PAC also received heavy lifting from real estate investors and architects. Among them: PRH Investments, a subsidiary of The Related Group, of which its vice chair Adolfo Rodriguez serves on the referendum’s campaign committee ($25,000); Rodriguez Architects ($2,000); Silva Architects ($1,000); VPI Builders ($5,000); and Capital Rentec, a real estate investment firm ($10,000).
A yes vote on the referendum will mean taxes for the average residential property will increase by about $140 in the first year. The property tax will cost $75 for every $100,000 of assessed taxable property.