Brighton Area Schools is one of only 32 Michigan districts currently operating with a budget deficit, even though it takes in more than $8,000 per pupil. According the Michigan Department of Education, the district overspent by 17 percent last year. A good place to start looking for ways to get out of the red would be the teachers union contract, since the costs contained therein consume almost 70 percent of the district's general funds.

The average teacher salary in Brighton Area Schools was $66,514 in 2009, the highest in Livingston County. The base salary for most Brighton teachers is between $56,352 and $78,130. Teachers are paid much like assembly line workers: individual pay is determined by a single salary schedule that grants automatic raises based only on years on the job plus additional pedagogy credentials. Brighton teachers receive "step" increases of 4 to 5 percent for their first nine or 10 years in the district. The final step increase on the salary schedule results in an automatic 13 percent jump in pay. In addition, the entire salary schedule grows by 1.125 percent each year.

Teachers are granted tenure after four years on the job. The district offers two different types of longevity payments: one grants them between $377 and $1,657 per year after their 16th year, and another adds between $250 and $1,750 to their pay each year after their 13th year.

A family health insurance plan for a teacher costs the district about 46 percent more than the average employer in the state. The district paid $15,064 for each employee in 2008-2009, with teachers chipping in $450 annually. The average employer contribution for a family premium in Michigan is $10,341, with employees paying $2,800 per year. The Brighton plan features no deductibles or co-pays and a $10/$20 prescription plan. Each teacher who does not enroll in the district's medical plan receives an additional $3,227 per year (plus dental, vision, life and long-term disability insurance).

School employees receive a lifetime pension when they retire, and also expect lifetime post-retirement health benefits. Based on the state-run retirement system's formula, the starting pension for a Brighton teacher with 30 years experience and an average base salary of $78,130 (the current final "step" on the salary schedule) would be $35,159. This amount increases by 3 percent every year. An employee may begin collecting a pension upon reaching the age of 55, or even younger if he or she has 30 years of employment in public schools.

The union contract includes bonus pay for additional duties. Teachers make $45 an hour when they sub for another teacher or have to instruct students during a designated preparation period. "Coordinators" get between $1,518 and $3,343 extra each year. Administering certain standardized tests pays between $1,569 and $3,173. If a secondary teacher takes on an additional class they get a bonus of one-fifth of his or her salary, and teachers with "oversized" classrooms get between $1,500 and $3,000 per extra student per year.

The district also pays out stipends for coaching and other extracurricular activities, such as band, drama, student clubs and others. These stipends increase by 2.25 percent each year. Aside from the more than 80 different athletic-related positions that pay between $912 and $8,695 annually, there are about 20 other extracurricular positions that pay between $448 and $6,802 each year.

Teachers are allotted 12 leave days per year that can be used for personal illness, illness in the immediate family or personal business. They can accumulate 120 of these. The district allows for five bereavement days as well. Teachers may take unpaid leaves for child care, extended personal illness, continuing education or any other district-approved purpose. Upon return, teachers are guaranteed the same or an equivalent teaching position.

Working hours and conditions are also covered in the contract. It defines the "work year" as 184 days and lists teachers' total hours at 1,101. The national average annual hours worked in all occupations is 1,768. Teachers may not instruct students for more than 5 hours and 30 minutes at the secondary level and 5 hours and 27 minutes at the elementary level each day.

A fully detailed analysis can be found here.