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Police officers who patrol San Diego Unified schools will get a nearly 6 percent pay boost this January, according to a tentative deal between the school district and the school police union. School police is an independent department that includes fully-sworn police officers, employed by the school district, not the city of San Diego.

Pay was a key issue for school officers, whose salaries previously were 23 percent below other county law enforcement agencies, according to union president Jesus Montana. Officers voted to approve the deal Tuesday. The boost “will not bring us to the median,” Montana wrote via e-mail, “but it is a small step towards it.”

Montana said he was still calculating where San Diego school police’s salaries would now fall, but estimated that with the increase, the officers now rank 16th in pay among 21 county law enforcement agencies. Before, Montana calculated that school police ranked 19th.

The January pay increase wasn’t the only change. Salary schedules for officers who’ve worked at length in a single assignment will also be hiked in 2008 and 2009, boosting long-serving officers’ pay an additional 5 percent.

And San Diego Unified will cover a greater percentage of officers’ pension contributions. Currently, the district pays 3.5 percent of officers’ salaries annually into the state pension fund, leaving officers to pay the remaining 5.5 percent, Montana explained. Now, the district will pay 6.5 percent, with officers chipping in 2.5 percent.

School police agreed to limit contract negotiations in the next two school years to wages and benefits, leaving other issues untouched.

The deal won’t be finalized until January, when the pay package goes to the school board for approval. Union organizers said the agreement was made too late for the item to be legally added to the agenda of next Tuesday’s board meeting.

EMILY ALPERT

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