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Many of eastern Idaho’s school districts have gotten an early start on their budgets for next year, including pay raises for many of their teachers.

Under the law signed into action by Gov. Brad Little in March, the minimum salary for teachers in Idaho has been raised to $38,500 for the upcoming year and to $40,000 starting in 2020.

Some districts also have worked in a second salary rule, included in House Bill 293 this year. The bill added that teachers at the “professional” status, which usually comes in their fourth year of teaching, earn a minimum of $42,500. Little and some lawmakers have said the salary figure in the bill is just a recommendation for districts, but some have already included the tier in their salaries for next year.

Idaho Falls School District 91 finished the negotiations for the new contract in April and the school board ratified the decision in early May. The average teacher salary will increase by 5.5 percent and administration salaries will increase by 3 percent.

“This contract is a testament to the strong relationship the district has with the Idaho Falls Education Association,” District 91 spokeswoman Margaret Wimborne said.

Bonneville Joint School District 93 and Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25, two of the districts that have among the largest number of teachers with salaries below the upcoming $40,000 minimum, have both negotiated contracts that include the higher minimum for teachers on the professional level.

Bonneville Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme said the district faced tough budget questions for next year, but teacher salaries were never an issue during the negotiations.

“It was a hard year but not because of the relationship with our teachers, which has continued to be great. What was hard was the cards we were dealt as far as the minimum salaries and the budget,” Woolstenhulme said.

Bonneville overestimated the number of students who would be enrolled this year, resulting in a budget shortfall of nearly a half-million dollars. Woolstenhulme said that shortfall, combined with the slowing enrollment rate for new kindergarten students in the district, has resulted in next year’s budget shrinking.

Both D91 and D93 will hold their final budget hearings on June 12. Teacher salaries are normally allotted in the district budget before the fiscal year starts for Idaho schools on July 1, though negotiations have continued later in the summer during past years.

Contact Brennen with news tips at 208-542-6711.

Kauffman reports on health care and city events for the Post Register.