Grand Forks School Board offers teachers small increase
The Grand Forks Public School Board has made an offer to its teachers, but educators say it can do better. Contract negotiations began Wednesday with board members offering only a salary increase. The board offered the Grand Forks Education Assoc...
The Grand Forks Public School Board has made an offer to its teachers, but educators say it can do better.
Contract negotiations began Wednesday with board members offering only a salary increase. The board offered the Grand Forks Education Association a $400 base-salary increase for the 2015-16 school year and a $600 raise for the 2016-17 year-about a fourth of what teachers requested. It declined any changes to health insurance but offered an additional $1 per hour for teachers who write curriculum and teach in the summer.
Board members previously said the estimated $94 million general fund next year can't handle the teachers' request. They said Wednesday that future projections show the same.
"If we do what you asked, we would end 2018 (deficit spending) $5 million," said board member Vicki Ericson. "That is not prudent for a business to function, let alone a district that relies on state dollars, federal dollars ... we can't operate that way."
Teachers say the district should pay more to retain highly-qualified staff, adding it can afford to based on growing enrollment and the association's own calculations. Board members maintain the district would deficit spend within a few years if the district honored the request.
Last week, teachers initially proposed a $2,300 increase the first year and a $2,000 increase the second to remain competitive with other districts. That means a base salary for a beginning teacher would start at $40,000 the first year and increase to $42,000 the second. A beginning teacher currently makes $37,700.
At that meeting, board members offered an increase of $300 the first year and $500 the second year.
The last negotiation meeting ended with teachers proposing to retain the initial base salary increases and requiring the district to pay 2 percent toward the state teachers retirement fund starting in the 2015-16 school year.
Business Manager Ed Gerhardt said their proposal translates to an 8 percent increase in pay and benefits for the first year, with a 7 percent increase the next. That includes costs related to Social Security and other benefits but not contributions to the state retirement fund, he said.
Teachers said Wednesday the district should be able to afford paying more because of growing enrollment this fall, which translates to greater revenue and a different method to develop the budget, they said.
"Expenses are overestimated and income is underestimated, and that's how we end up spending less than we budgeted for teachers," said Paula Salentine, a negotiating member for the teachers.
Though the district anticipates higher enrollment this fall-and is expected to receive an estimated $9,365 per student-it won't benefit from the growth until next year, said board members. Per-student funding for North Dakota districts always falls a year behind, Superintendent Larry Nybladh said.
"We don't get a penny for those students until next year," he said.
Board members provided Gerhardt's budget projections until 2020, which included a 4 percent overall revenue increase. If teachers were granted their entire proposal, the district's reserve funding would shrink within a few years, they said.
The teachers' negotiating team will write a counterproposal for the next meeting, they said.