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The St. Mary’s school board and negotiators for school employee unions have reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract that includes a 1.5 percent raise for employees next school year.

The contract does not include any step increases, which are given to some employees based on years of service.

Superintendent Michael Martirano announced at a school board meeting Wednesday morning that the negotiating teams reached the agreement March 30. It still has to be ratified by school employees and signed by the school board.

The tentative agreement is for fiscal years 2013 through 2015 for contract language; negotiations may be reopened for salary adjustments in fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

Along with a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment to go into effect July 1 for all employees, the contract includes changes to health insurance that will provide “economic efficiencies to both employees and the school system, and savings for retirees,” Martirano said, along with improved working conditions, increases to the tuition reimbursement process and flex leave for certain types of work beyond normal responsibilities.

The contract does not include any step increases, which are given to some employees based on years of service.

The absence of any step increases is “a concern for us, because we wanted to make sure steps were included,” Martirano said, adding that the money was not available.

The school board members and Martirano on Wednesday thanked the county commissioners for settling on an amount of money for the school system’s budget early. That move, they said, allowed for the tentative agreement to be reached earlier than in past years.

Wanda Twigg, president of the Education Association of St. Mary’s County, thanked the school system’s negotiators for their politeness during the process. “They treat us very well and we have a conversation about every topic, whether they like it or not,” Twigg said Wednesday.

She said that the “small raise” was appreciated and that the working condition improvements in the contract would help with morale.

Twigg said she wished the raise would have at least matched the raise announced for St. Mary’s County government employees, who are scheduled to get a 2 percent pay raise and a $500 stipend next fiscal year.

Terrie Butt, president of the Collective Education Association of St. Mary’s County, said that she, too, appreciated the hard work of the negotiators on both sides and was looking forward to next year.

jyeatman@somdnews.com