TILTON — Automatic step increases for teachers with more than 10 years of experience will be a thing of the past in the Winnisquam Regional School District if a new collective bargaining agreement is approved at the annual school district meeting next March.
''There was a perception that teachers are getting double raises because they received both the step increases as well as cost of living increases and we wanted to deal with that,'' said Winnisquam Regional School Board Chair Michael Gagne.
Step increases are built into the salary schedules of most school districts and provide for automatic annual increases based on additional experiences. The Winnisquam School District currently has 41 steps but that will be reduced to from to 11 in the first year of the agreement and 10 the following year.
Gagne said that the agreement which was recently reached between the Winnisquam Regional School District and the Winnisquam Regional Teachers' Association also increases the starting salary for teachers by $5,000 over a three-year period.
He said that in the first year of the three-year agreement, the base pay for new teachers will increase to $34,000 and that it will increase in subsequent years to $35,205 and $36,191. Currently starting pay for a new teacher is $31,152.
'We wanted to attract more teaching candidates and retain staff by making the district's salaries competitive with those of nearby school districts,'' said Gagne.
In the first year of the new contract teachers will be advanced two steps because they are working without a contract this year. The step increases in the first year will be 3 percent of base salary for each step through step 15 and 1.94 percent of the base salary for steps 15-41.
The total "new" cost of the package agreed to will be $559,674 for the 2014-2015 school year.
a 7.25 percent increase in the district's teacher salary account.
In the second year of the contract steps 1-11 will see a three percent increase and those still on the steps will also move up one step. Those no longer on the step schedule will receive a three percent cost of living increase. Total salary increase will be $347,569 for 2015-2016, a 4.2 percent increase in the salary account.
In the final year of the contract steps 1-10 will receive a three percent increase and those who are no longer on the step schedule will receive 2.5 percent cost of living increases. Total increase will be $270,592, a 3.13 percent increase in the salary account.
A teacher on step 5 currently making $36,420 will see a salary increase to $40,129 next year, $42,598 in 2015-16 and $44,877 in 2016-17.
By contrast a teacher on step 15 currently making $47,322 will see an increase to $49,599 next year, $51,357 in 2015-16 and $52,641 the following year.
The teacher currently on step 5 will see an increase of $8,467 over the life contract while the teacher on step 15 will only see an increase of $5,319, more than $3,000 less than the teacher with 10 years less experience.
A major focus of the new contract according to Gagne and Brenda Lawrence, president of the Winnisquam Regional Teachers Association, was the "promotion of professional growth among our existing staff". The contract increases the number of teaching days from 188 to 189 in the first year and then adds another day in the second year. There is also an increase in monies made available for professional development, from $90,000 to $110,000 per year.
A new health care benefit was also added to the contract for retiring teachers. If the agreement is approved, they will be eligible to receive a $6,000 health care allowance annually for a period of five years, or until they become eligible for Medicare, whichever comes first.
"This new benefit encourages our existing staff members to remain in the district long term," said Gagne and Lawrence. "The benefit also makes retirement a reality for some of our existing staff members, with potential savings to the district, long term."