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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Veronica Cugini wipes down counters as work on the new Granite Wellness Center in West Valley City nears completion on Thursday, April 25, 2019. The Granite District Board of Education Association agreement includes the new medical facility at no cost to contracted employees. A tentative agreement between the Granite School Board and the Granite Education Association will likely mean an 8.7 percent increase in compensation for teachers. One of the most innovative components of the benefit package is the wellness center, which will provide free comprehensive medical and pharmaceutical services to all contract employees with no out-of-pocket cost.

WEST VALLEY CITY — There's salary and then there's benefits.

Both the president of the Granite Board of Education and the Granite Education Association say the salary and benefit package they have tentatively agreed upon for the coming school year will be highly competitive with Canyons School District's proposed settlement announced earlier this week, which will offer first-year certified teachers a $50,000 annual salary.

Under the proposed agreement between the Granite board and the teacher association, starting pay for teachers will be around $43,483, according to details released on Thursday. However, Granite teachers will have no increase in their health insurance premiums, which are significantly lower than other area school districts because Granite's health insurance is self-funded, district officials said.

"With keeping our insurance premiums low, it literally keeps thousands of dollars more in our employee pocketbooks because other districts have much higher premiums," said Karyn Winder, president of the Granite Board of Education.

The tentative agreement also funds steps and lanes, additional pay teachers receive for advanced education and years of experience. The tentative agreement includes a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment.

Granite Education Association President Michael McDonough said there has been a healthy competition for educators among Wasatch Front school districts in recent years. But recent college graduates or experienced teachers interested in testing the job market should carefully study salary and benefit packages.

"We want a package that's going to not just recruit new teachers but also to retain good teachers, experienced teachers, to keep them in the district. Our district has worked hard on that for a long time. We have a really good district retirement package that we've been able to keep fully funded over the years. What that does, if you've got 10 years in Granite, there's a reason to stay even if districts around are trying to pump up the salary number on the bottom and recruit new teachers," he said.

Winder said the school board hopes prospective teachers look at the full benefit package. "When you put all the details in this compensation package together, we'll happily put our compensation package up against our surrounding districts," she said.

McDonough said it is also important to "look across your career and see what is the potential for raising your salary in the future by getting additional degrees, moving to a different lane on the salary schedule.

"What will my earnings be looking like five years, 10 years down the road?"

The tentative agreement between the Granite board and education association must be approved by the school board and members of the teacher association. The proposed agreement will require no tax increase, which is important to all property owners in the district but particularly so to Granite District employees, many of whom live in the district boundaries, said Granite District spokesman Ben Horsley.

If approved, teachers will receive an 8.7 percent increase in total compensation and a salary scale that tops at $84,255 annually.

The tentative agreement also includes a 3 percent bonus for teachers ranging from $1,304 to $2,528 annually. The bonuses will be issued in mid-November to assist with holiday expenses.

The proposed agreement will lengthen the teacher contract from 187 days to 190 days, which means the district will pay for more professional development days for teachers than in the past, McDonough said.

Come May, the district will open its Granite Wellness Center, which will provide comprehensive medical and pharmaceutical services for all contract employees and their dependents at no cost.

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The 6,000-square-foot facility, a former church seminary building adjacent to Valley Junior High School at 4195 S. 3200 West, is the first of its kind provided by a Utah school district, said Donnette McNeill-Waters, Granite School District's human resources director.

The center will be staffed by a private provider, Premise Health, and offer physical and mental health services. It also has on-site physical therapy facilities.

While the clinic will be a new benefit for contract employees, it's been several years in the making and was not part of this year's contract negotiations, McDonough said.