PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay District Schools administrators and union representatives are negotiating teacher contracts. They’re trying to reach the state-mandated minimum salaries of $47,500.

District officials have known for three years they would have to increase the minimum teacher salary. They have been increasing the minimum teacher salary each year since 2019 when teachers made $36,000.

Going into this school year, the state budgeted $1.8 million for Bay District Schools to raise teacher salaries.

But it’s not enough to get new teachers to the minimum salary of $47,500.

“The law basically said until you hit that minimum, 80% of increase has to go to new teachers,” ABCE Bargaining Team Co-Chair Alexis Underwood said.

Until all teachers make the new minimum salary, more experienced educators will not receive much money for raises.

“So a teacher that has maybe 15 years of experience, who starts here, and one who has one year of experience that starts down here, they’re all moving up to here,” Underwood said. “So the person that who was already at a higher salary base has seen.”

Bay District Schools CFO Jim Loyed had to have an additional $2.2 million approved by the school board to keep the district on track to meet state legislation.

“Once our minimum salaries are $47,500 then we can take the money that comes from the state for salaries and divide it among the people as we see fit,” Bay District Schools Director of Communications Sharon Michalik said. “But right now it’s kind of a forced choice because we have to get to $47,500 before we have any flexibility in the salary.”

The school system’s fiscal budget will not be known until July. Union representatives said that makes it difficult to determine how much money can be allocated to bump salaries for experienced teachers.

“It’s a dangerous thing to try to work budgets when you don’t have a final budget,” Underwood said. “You don’t know exactly how much money is in the checking account.”