Top teachers got 9% average bonus in 2013

Several saw 20% - 35% increases in total compensation over their scheduled salaries.

As part of my analysis of why Acton's property taxes are so high, I took a diversion to finish another project, which is an analysis of 2013 Acton and Acton-Boxborough teacher pay.

We received the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 salary data from the schools, which reports scheduled salaries from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. We then received the gross wages (W-2) from January 2013 to December 2013. I prepared a spreadsheet (link below) showing all full-time teachers and a comparison of their FY earnings to their CY earnings.

One would expect an average increase of approximately 1-2% because raises are given in the new FY starting July 1, 2013. Over six months (July - December) about half of the raise would show up in the gross earnings for all teachers.

As expected, there are many teachers who got 0.5% to 2% increases in this time frame. But there are many who got far higher increases.

Some of these increases are possibly due to extra pay for duties like advising clubs or coaching sports. Teaching summer school or being a department leader can also lead to extra pay. But some of the extra pay appears to be in the form of "longevity bonuses" that are paid to the most highly compensated and longest teaching staff.

See the full spreadsheet here:

In our study, we excluded all teachers who were not working full-time (1.0 in FTE) and any teacher who got paid substantially less in CY2013, most likely due to retirement, change in duties, or leaving the system. (You can see their wage data in columns D and E). Some long-serving teachers who retired probably received a "retirement incentive" which is a program that is being phased out, replaced with "longevity pay."

In other words, we used to pay teachers to leave early, and now we pay them to stay late.

The top 75 teachers who made $90,000 or more in total earnings in CY13 had an average bonus/increase of 9.6% from FY13 to CY13 (see cell G-782).

Unlike the retirement incentive, these longevity bonuses are counted towards earnings. Teachers who retire are paid pensions that equal approximately 80% of their last three years of total compensation. The retirement incentives were not counted towards compensation for pension calculations, but the longevity bonuses are. For example, a $20,000 increase in compensation per year during the last three years of employment would earn a teacher $16,000 more per year in retirement.

Massachusetts does not tax teacher retirement earnings. However, teachers do not pay into nor are they eligible for social security.

The retirement system is managed by the state which is currently obligated to fund the expected shortfall in future payments. The unfunded liability in the Massachusetts' Teachers Retirement System has been estimated in 2012 at $14 billion.

The average full-time teacher in FY13 made $75,528. Their median pay was $77,395. Their W-2 wages in CY13 averaged $79,488, with a median of $80,347. The average represented an increase of 5.24%. (See Cell F-697). Teachers are required to work 182 days per year according to their contract (see, section 9.2).

Our findings are roughly comparable with state-reported numbers. In FY12, the state reported average teacher salaries of $77,536 for a combined Acton and Acton-Boxborough school system.

The spreadsheet is in three sections. All data for F/T teachers is in the top section. In the middle, we copied the FY and CY wage columns and calculated the average and median pay for all full-time teachers. In the last section we copied all teachers who grossed more than $90,000 in CY 2013 and reviewed their increases from FY13 to CY13. This shows extra pay or bonuses as high as 20% - 35% from FY13 to CY13. (See rows 705-733 of the spreadsheet).

For the files from which we constructed this data, see Acton Forum's Links & Docs page. We have posted both the FY13 and CY13 school wages for all employees.


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The following correction was sent by Marie Altieri, Director of Personnel Services for the schools:

I came across your article on teacher bonus pay for longevity and I wanted to let you know that you are looking at the numbers incorrectly. The differences between the fiscal year FY '13 teachers' contract pay and the calendar year 2013 total earnings are related to extra duties including coaching teams, department leader, advising clubs, summer school, etc. For example, there is a teacher whom you list as receiving a 33% longevity bonus. That teacher, in fact, is coaching 3 sports and teaching several sections of summer school.

The longevity that you are referring to is actually included in the FY '13 fiscal year contract salary. It ranges from $1,300(for 10 years of service) to $2,700 (for 25 or more years of service).

Allen Nitschelm has lived in Acton since 1998 and writes about fiscal issues at the
local and state level. He is a former member of the town's Finance Committee
and is an Associate Publisher of Acton Forum.