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Fargo School Board approves teacher pay hike

FARGO - The Fargo School Board voted 8-1 to approve the recommendations of an impasse panel that would give teachers an increase in pay each of the next two years.

FARGO - The Fargo School Board voted 8-1 to approve the recommendations of an impasse panel that would give teachers an increase in pay each of the next two years.

The board then voted 8-1 to improve the offer, by making the pay raises also apply to the salaries of newly hired teachers in each of those years, and not restrict the raises to those who are already employed.

The board also voted to have their lead negotiator meet with the head of the Fargo Education Association's negotiating team to discuss a legal problem with the paid time off policy that was tentatively approved by both sides.

FEA President Kim Belgarde said the union has not set a vote on the pay plan, as the group is still studying it.

Both sides must still approve the entire contract.


School board President Jim Johnson said if it's possible to get the contract approved in time to get the pay increases in teachers' Sept. 15 checks, he would call a special meeting.

The impasse panel, made up of Johnson, state Sen. Tim Mathern and City Commissioner Brad Wimmer suggested a two-year contract. With the change approved by the board:

  • An additional $550 would be added to the base salary of a first-year teacher this school year. The amounts added to other teacher salaries vary by education and experience.
  • Another $450 would be added to each cell of the 2011-12 salary schedule. In the first year, with retirement and Social Security costs, that adds nearly $2 million to the district's expenses, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Broc Lietz said. The second year would see an increase of at least $2,256,753.

Last year, Fargo School District spent $49.2 million on teacher salaries alone, Lietz said.
As part of a plan mandated by the Legislature to stabilize the Teachers Fund for Retirement, the district will pay about $1 million more annually into the fund beginning next year, Johnson said.

He said at the same time, there is little increase in foundation aid, and other staff want to see pay increases, too.

"I'm hopeful the teachers will also ratify the mediation panel's result, and then the hard work will be for us to figure out where we're going to get the savings that we're going to need to make sure that we can live with that Year Two," he said.

Johnson said the paid time off plan conflicts with state law and administrative rulings. State law requires that teachers get 10 days as sick leave, which is defined in the statute, he said.

But, if sick leave is called paid time off or paid leave - even if there is extra time included in the account to meet sick leave rules - it is called vacation time.

"That's where the dilemma came in," Johnson said.


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

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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