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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Milford votes will ponder a teacher contract along with Sept. 9 party primaries

MILFORD – While voters throughout New Hampshire will be facing a lot of political primary races at the Sept. 9 election, voters in Milford will have something more to ponder: A contract for teachers.

Due to an unusual, court-ordered special school district meeting, the ballot will include a warrant article that would give teachers $545,000 worth of increases this year, based on recommendations from a fact-finder hired to help settle a contract dispute between the Milford Teachers Association and the Milford School Board. ...

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MILFORD – While voters throughout New Hampshire will be facing a lot of political primary races at the Sept. 9 election, voters in Milford will have something more to ponder: A contract for teachers.

Due to an unusual, court-ordered special school district meeting, the ballot will include a warrant article that would give teachers $545,000 worth of increases this year, based on recommendations from a fact-finder hired to help settle a contract dispute between the Milford Teachers Association and the Milford School Board.

The $545,000 would cover increases in teachers’ salaries and in wage-driven benefits for 2014-15.

Negotiations on the three-year contract resolved all but one issue: the School Board’s wish for a third tier of health insurance, which would require new teachers – those who have not been hired yet – to accept a 5 percent higher share of their premiums.

The factfinder recommended that the board drop that proposal and that the teachers’ association drop its proposal for a 2.25 percent cost of living adjustment in the contract’s third year.

The teachers had agreed to accept the nonbinding recommendations, but the School Board didn’t, sending the matter to voters.

The School Board argued that the wage increases it is offering over three years – 1.5 percent in the first year, and 2 percent each in years 2 and 3 – is generous, and the creation of a Group 3 for health insurance is “an extremely modest proposal.”

The warrant article needs only a simple majority to pass. If it passes, the school tax rate would go up 31 cents, above the current rate $19.42 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.

For the contract’s second year, the cost would be $577,736 and for the third year, 2016-17, the cost would be $559,421.

Passage of the warrant article would also give the board authority to sign a contract with teachers, said School Board member Paul Dargie, but would not require the board to do so.

A deliberative session for this article saw some discussion about whether to “zero out” the item – that is, reduce the dollar amount to zero, effectively negating any vote. That did not happen, however.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@cabinet.com.