BARTOW – The union representing Polk County teachers has reached an agreement with the Polk School District that provides a bump in base pay and other benefits, ending a 15-monthlong impasse.

The agreement between the Polk Education Association teachers union and the district was reached prior to Tuesday’s meeting of the School Board, freeing board members from having to vote on the salary issue.

“This has moved us (forward) substantially,” said PEA President Marianne Capoziello during Tuesday’s board meeting.

School Board member Hazel Sellers called the agreement “a win-win for both of us. We can never give you the decent raise you deserve” given the way the state short-changes school districts.

The School Board held a public hearing on teacher pay raises two weeks ago but was unable to come to a decision. The hearing was continued to Tuesday’s board meeting, but there was no need.

Representatives on both sides hammered out the details, some of which have yet to be nailed down, including issues over insurance and teacher evaluations.

The PEA had argued for a special magistrate’s recommendation of a 2 percent wage hike retroactive to the 2016-17 school year, but the district opposed the retroactive plan, saying that the budget wouldn’t absorb the cost.

In the end, both sides agreed to raise base pay but not by the recommended 2 percent across the board. Also, raises will be retroactive to half of the 2016-17 school year, and back to July for the current school year.

The deal includes step raises for para-educators and other personnel.

If ratified by union members, the extra money should show up in February paychecks.

To pay for the wage increases, district officials will use capital funds, something Board Member Tim Harris warned could create problems with funding necessary capital improvements.

“At some point you pay the piper,” he said.

Jacqueline Byrd, superintendent of Polk schools, praised the outcome of the agreement.

“They were working to the very last minute” on both sides, she said. “Thanks to everyone. And our teachers appreciate the work you put in.”

In other action during Tuesday’s meeting, board members:

•Elected Lynn Wilson to succeed Kay Fields as board chair. Lori Cunningham was voted in as vice chair.

•Approved a contract ratified by members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2227 that provides raises for bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians.

•Voted 5 to 2 to approve the charter application of Navigator Academy.

•Voted to deny the charter applications of Our Children’s Preparatory School and Bok Academy North.

 - Eric Pera can be reached at eric.pera@directgates.com or 863-802-7528.