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Board offers teachers 6.62% pay hike

Fargo teachers are mulling a proposed pay increase that includes a change in the way they're compensated. The Fargo School District is offering to boost spending on teachers by $2.2 million, or 4.23 percent, in 2003-04 and another $1 million, or ...

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Fargo teachers are mulling a proposed pay increase that includes a change in the way they're compensated.

The Fargo School District is offering to boost spending on teachers by $2.2 million, or 4.23 percent, in 2003-04 and another $1 million, or 2.39 percent, in 2004-05, said Dan Huffman, an assistant superintendent and member of the district's negotiating team.

Under the proposal, most teachers would receive $720 to $2,500 more in 2003-04 and an additional $155 to $1,700 more in 2004-05.

Teachers in the lowest-paying category, or salary lane, would receive $562 to $2,105 more next school year and an additional $121 to $1,650 more in 2004-05, according to information from the district. Teachers in the highest-paying salary lane would receive $1,109 to $2,595 more next school year and an additional $239 to $1,756 in 2004-05, the district said.

The district also proposes to alter teachers' compensation packages. Money the district currently pays into teachers' retirement plans would instead be paid directly to teachers, then deducted from their paycheck and applied to retirement.

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The change would allow many teachers to collect more Social Security benefits after they retire, district negotiators said.

"This would be great for teachers. It would mean more money from Social Security," said Dan Fremling, Fargo School Board president and a member of the district's negotiating team.

Teacher negotiators aren't quite sure what to make of the proposed change.

"We want to think over this new approach," said Lee Myxter, a negotiator for the Fargo Education Association, representing about 800 people.

Negotiators are scheduled to meet again May 14. Fargo teachers say they'll likely make a salary counter-offer then. Also on the May 14 agenda: paid time off and professional development days.

Two years ago, negotiations dragged out all summer. Both sides said they're optimistic negotiations will go smoother this year.

Teacher contract talks in West Fargo are expected to get under way shortly.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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