By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — City and school leaders have identified a funding mechanism for a 5-year teacher contract containing significant salary hikes.
In a work session Friday afternoon, four City Council members and three members of the School Board discussed a plan under which the city would fund a reserve account to be used to cover the difference between what the contract costs and money available under the property tax cap.
Councilor Henry Lipman presented the plan. Also present were councilors Ava Doyle, Brenda Baer and Robert Hamel, along with School Board members Michael Persson, Aaron Hayward and Mal Murray. The group is to meet again next Friday, before the proposal is formally considered by the council on June 5.
Also present was School District Superintendent Dr. Brendan Minnihan. He supports the new proposal.
“This is a brilliant idea that takes the stress off the City Council and the School Board and creates a lack of tension,” he said. “Teachers and staff would have a level of certainty they haven’t seen in years.”
Lipman predicted the plan would win City Council support.
“It allows us to solve this problem in a less contentious way,” he said. “There should be enough votes to pass it.”
Money from the sale of two city properties is expected to bring in nearly $1 million. Some of that money could be used for the account, which could be replenished in years when there is sufficient revenue growth under the salary cap formula.
Last year, the School District made $1.7 million in budget cuts, and this year nearly $900,000 in cuts are anticipated. Teachers, who are among the lowest-paid in the region, are working without a contract. Yearly salary step increases for experience have not been granted in four out of the last 12 years.
The tentative contract, approved by the teachers' union and the School Board, would ultimately put Laconia teacher salaries at or above most other districts in the area, but the plan requires City Council approval.
Earlier discussions had centered around whether the City Council would override the tax cap to fund a School District budget increase of at least $850,000.
A tax-cap override is a non-starter for most council members.
Growth provided under the tax cap inflation factors will provide $508,000 in additional money that could be applied to pay raises in the school district in the first year of the new contract. The district now estimates it wouldn need no more than $200,000 in additional money to fund the new contract.
The city is selling the Lakeport Landing marina along Union Avenue to Irwin Marine for $508,000 and the former Lakeport Fire Station to the present owner of Lakeport Landing for more than $475,000, less certain expenses.
City Manager Scott Myers said no use has been designated yet for this money, beyond holding it in reserve.
Participants in Friday’s meeting suggested an approach in which the current tentative contract before the council would be withdrawn and replaced with a new contract that would utilize the reserve fund proposal.
- Written by Rick Green
- Category: Local News
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