North Merrick has joined a growing list of school systems where teachers and administrators have given up next year's pay raises -- saving the district about $350,000.
As a result, local school officials have agreed not to lay off teachers next year, or eliminate school orchestras, theater programs and other services that earlier were at risk.
"They're important to children -- we didn't want to see them dismantled," said Roseanne Petraglia, a third-grade teacher and president of the district's 123-member teachers union.
Union members, who also include social workers and teaching assistants, realized that economic times were tight, Petraglia added. Like other districts, North Merrick recently suffered a cut in state financial aid -- a local loss of $477,200.
Next year, local teachers will give up contractual raises of 2.75 percent, but retain annual "step" increases built into their salary schedule and averaging about 2.5 percent. In exchange, teachers obtained a two-year contract extension with raises of 1.25 percent in 2012-13 and 1.5 percent in 2013-14, plus steps.
The agreement is contingent on passage of the district's proposed $26.8 million budget, which carries a spending increase of 2.11 percent and a tax-levy hike of 3.96 percent.
The revised teacher contract was approved by the school board Tuesday night. At the same meeting, it was announced that principals had given up 3.25 percent raises next year.
Earlier, the superintendent and other central-office administrators also agreed not to seek raises. In all, 135 local staffers are affected by partial or total salary freezes next year. "I'm very appreciative of the sacrifice," said Superintendent David Feller.
North Merrick is the latest of 18 Long Island districts where teachers have recently announced giving up contractual raises, either this year or next.