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Helmut Schmidt, Published May 20 2013

Fargo School District presents pay proposals to teachers

FARGO – Negotiators for the Fargo School District presented two pay proposals Monday in an effort to keep teacher contract talks from sliding into impasse.

But members of the Fargo Education Association negotiating team said they weren’t sure their members would approve of either plan – particularly since teachers want to make up ground after losing $150 to $250 a month in the last year in take-home pay due to rising retirement and health insurance costs.

“Many of our members have gone backwards,” Sherry Warner-Seefeld said.

One school district proposal calls for adding $900 a year in both years of the contract to each cell of what school board President Jim Johnson called a modified salary matrix.

In 2013-14, that would mean a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree would earn $38,000, while a teacher with 18 years and a master’s degree plus 45 credits would get $72,874.

In 2014-15, that spread would be $39,225 to $75,251.

The second plan calls for a 4 percent increase in the pay and benefits package the first year, and a 4.5 percent increase in the second year.

In 2013-14, the spread between the newly minted and the most senior teachers would be $38,735 and $72,792.

In 2014-15, the spread would be $40,478 to $76,068.

“We actually believe that’s a fairer approach,” Johnson said of the percentage offer.

Johnson acknowledged that FEA members will have to kick in another 2 percent in Teacher’s Fund For Retirement payments in the second year of the contract as required by the state to stabilize that fund. But he said the district will have to pay 2 percent more, too.

“At least after TFFR, you’d still be looking at a 2.5 percent increase. Not good, but not bad,” Johnson said.

About 45 FEA members watched the negotiations.

The FEA has sought to include health insurance and longevity recognition (a policy that allows retiring teachers to cash in unused sick days) into the contract. The school board refused both of those requests.

The next teacher contract negotiations meeting is May 29.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583