Using local money voters approved in November, the Westminster school district and teachers union have agreed to a salary plan that increases pay significantly over the next two years.

First-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree will be offered $50,497 under the new agreement — which could be the highest starting salary in the state. Other districts are still negotiating how to increase teacher pay with new money voters approved in November.

The announcement of an agreement comes as Denver teachers are on the verge of a strike after negotiations between the school district and teachers union broke down.

Westminster teachers with a doctorate degree and more than 15 years experience could reach $100,000. The plan increases the starting salary to $52,820 in the 2020-21 school year, the second year of the agreement, and increases the maximum to $106,702.

Teachers and other union staff are voting on the plan Feb. 15 to Feb. 21. Union president Rosie Jaramillo said she expects it to be approved.

“We haven’t had that much of a raise in years,” Jaramillo said. “Teachers were expecting something good this year because we helped pass the mill levy.”

Currently, Westminster offers first-year teachers a salary of $44,316, which was already one of the highest starting salaries for teachers in the metro area.

Despite that, Westminster has a teacher turnover rate of 19 percent, slightly higher than in some neighboring districts.

District officials asked voters to raise local taxes, in part, to help raise teachers salaries so that the district might better attract and retain “highly effective teachers.” Jaramillo said she expects this new salary plan will help.

The new salary is also a reward, after the district saw academic gains this year. Westminster Public Schools was on the “accountability clock,” or state watchlist, after years of low performance, and was given until next fall to show improvement or face a state order. The district managed to show enough improvement this year and is now off of the state’s watchlist.

“This tentative agreement shows how much we value our staff and keeps a promise we made to voters,” said Superintendent Pam Swanson. “As I told our community when we moved off the accountability clock last year, our success was because of everyone pulling together, and this agreement reflects that point of view.”

Last year, the district offered teachers a one-time bonus if they helped the district raise its ratings. That form of compensation didn’t go over well with some teachers and union leaders.

The new salary schedule seeks to incentivize teachers to expand their education, district officials said. There are several salary bumps allowed with additional education, including a new one for credits earned between degrees.