Teacher salary gaps: As Gilmanton nears vote on teacher contract, analysis shows disparities in pay

04 27 teacher salaries cahoon

Gilford Middle School social studies teacher Alyson Cahoon works late in her classroom. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — Entry-level teachers with a bachelor's degree in the Laconia School District earned a mid-range $36,412 this past school year, but their incentive to stay promptly took a nosedive, according to a teacher salary comparison for the Lakes Region.
An entry-level teacher with a master's degree in Laconia earned $41,507, placing that teacher in the seventh tier out of 12 districts, according to the comparison. In the fifth year of employment in Laconia, that same teacher earned $44,929, or 11th out of 12 districts in the 2016-2017 school year comparison.
The salary comparison was provided by the Gilford School District during that school board's preparation of a budget and negotiated contract.
Now, the Gilmanton School District is hoping to convince voters that teachers there deserve pay increases, following a setback at the polls for local instructors.
Health insurance, a cost that has plagued school districts throughout the Lakes Region, has become a bargaining chip for Gilmanton teachers.
Gilmanton's proposed teacher contract — the second this year — awaits the public's vote, and teachers agreed to take on a higher share of soaring health insurance costs in return for increased salaries, according to parties to the latest negotiation.
"Our salaries for the Lakes Region, we're in the lower (tier). That was one of our goals was to try and bring us closer," said Nancy Tothill, chief negotiator for the Gilmanton Education Association.
Entry-level teachers with a bachelor's degree in Gilmanton last year earned $34,600, lowest in the 12-district comparison. In years five and 15, respectively, teachers with a bachelor's degree earned $39,011 and $49,026, still at the bottom of the 12-district area comparison.
Gilmanton Education Association sought to draw closer to a salary of about $70,000 for a teacher with a master's degree and 30 years of experience, "and ours was at about $63,000," Tothill said.
"Our goal this time was to get us closer to that $70,000, but all the school districts were also renegotiating contracts, so as much as we were moving closer to it, they were moving, too," she said.
On Wednesday, April 19, the Gilmanton Budget Committee unanimously endorsed the proposed teachers' collective bargaining agreement. The new agreement calls for increases in contract spending of $90,233 in fiscal year 2018, $89,488 in fiscal year 2019 and $98,030 in fiscal year 2020.
A special deliberative session to discuss the proposed teachers' collective bargaining agreement is Tuesday, May 16, at 7 p.m. in the Gilmanton School multi-purpose room. Voting Day is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 13, at the Gilmanton Academy Building.
On March 14, Gilmanton voters turned down a previous collective bargaining agreement reached between the Gilmanton School Board and the Gilmanton Education Association. This previous agreement called for increases in salaries and benefits of $41,311 in 2017-2018; $129,327 in 2018-2019; and $133,211 in 2019-2020.
Brian Forst of the Gilmanton Budget Committee said the Budget Committee's vote was 5-3 to not recommend the initial contract in January. The Budget Committee insisted at the time that health insurance costs were not being contained.
"It was a unanimous vote to support this one, and last time it was a 5-3 vote not to support," Forst said, noting that the new agreement tackles the rising cost of health insurance.
"The average household is not seeing these kinds of increases in their income, and therefore it's hard for them to swallow these kinds of increases coming out of their pocket," he said.
"We drew a line a year or two ago and said we need to start getting a handle on this, it cannot keep going — 7, 9 (percent) — it can't keep going at these rates," Forst said.
The 85 percent share that the district now pays for teachers' health insurance was slated to rise to 97 percent under the previous proposed contract. Under this new plan, the district contribution will drop from 95 percent to 93 percent and 91 percent in the third year.
"The basis of the new contract is we're willing to pay them a little more money in salary, but we want control of how much this insurance is going to cost. You're going to have to take a policy with a deductible," Forst said.

In February, Laconia School Board members grappled with personnel costs, including retirement system and health insurance cost spikes.
Mike Persson of the Laconia School Board, chairman of the budget and personnel committee, said new salary costs from pending teacher negotiations were not included in $1 million in additional expenses facing the school district next year.
Persson, when asked how much teacher raises could add to the budget, said that won't be known until the school board negotiates with the teachers union.
"Our teachers are so far behind at this point in time compared with other districts," he said. "Many of our teachers, actually over 100 of our teachers, are over four years behind on their steps."
School districts that offer the most competitive teacher salaries include Inter-Lakes in Meredith and Gilford, although much depends on how long a teacher has been on the job.
In Inter-Lakes, entry-level teachers with a bachelor's degree earned $38,928 this past school year. An entry-level teacher with a master's degree earned $49,033. In the eight categories contained in the Gilford salary comparison — bachelor's degree holders and master's degree holders at entry level, five, 10 and 15 years in the district, respectively — Inter-Lakes offered the highest salaries in six out of eight categories.
Mary Moriarty, superintendent of the Inter-Lakes School District based in Meredith, noted that the teachers' contract was passed at the annual school district meeting in March. The three-year agreement with teachers carries a cumulative cost of $1,023,737.
The Inter‐Lakes Education Association collective bargaining agreement included increases in salaries and benefits of $320,073 in 2017‐2018; $350,525 in 2018‐2019; and $353,139 in 2019‐2020. 
Teachers have agreed to increase their cost share for health insurance by one percent in the first year, and 1.5 percent in both the second and third years, according to school board deliberations. The change in prescription drug plans coupled with the added premium contributions was estimated to save the district about $137,000 over the life of the contract, the school board noted.
In Gilford, health insurance was expected to increase by a guaranteed maximum of 14.4 percent, or $365,288 next year, a number built into the operating budget. Despite this sticker shock, which led to backlash by the Gilford Budget Committee, voters approved the school district operating budget of $26,019,631 and a teachers' contract with increases of $268,198 in the first year; $268,198 in the second year; and $245,392 in the third year.
Forst, the Budget Committee member in Gilmanton, said, "I think it's all partially what a district can afford." Different districts have different "budget capabilities," he noted.
Gilmanton teachers often are pitted against peers in property tax-heavy lakefront communities, Forst said.
"They tend to look to the Lakes Region, which is a wealthier area of communities then if they looked southeast," he said. "There are other school districts that we never get compared with."
Tothill agreed, "It really depends on what your town has for resources. If you're a city like Laconia or a town like Meredith and you have all that lakefront property, it's hard to compare yourself to that because you're not comparing apples to apples."
Gilford, she said, hewed toward the top in teacher pay, "but they're funding their school on more than property," Tothill said. "They have all those businesses, and they have all those Lake Winnipesaukee homes. ... They have all those summer homes (whose owners) pay taxes but don't burden the schools."
Laconia is an outlier in this discussion because of the city's tax cap. The tax cap is a controversial mechanism which limits the annual increase in spending as funded by property taxes based on the rate of inflation and the value of new construction.
Persson, who heads the school district's budget and personnel committee, told the City Council last June that local teachers have not received pay raises in three of the last nine years.

"I knew from prior staff resignations that Laconia's salaries weren't competitive with other districts, but my jaw dropped when I compared Laconia's teacher pay to those of Gilford, Inter-Lakes and Concord," he said.


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Road dispute leads to no city trash pickup


LACONIA — For many years, the city trash service has picked up Cal Dunn's garbage. 

He appeared before the City Council on April 10 and then again on Monday night to demand an explanation for why that service suddenly stopped, leaving the trash to pile up outside his home at 217 Garfield St.

To put it mildly, Dunn is not happy with the situation involving his rubbish.

"Maybe if I bring it down to the City Hall steps here, they would be willing to look into it quickly," he said at the Monday council meeting.

City Manager Scott Myers offered an explanation, but it didn't satisfy Dunn.

Dunn lives on a private road. The contract with the city's trash contractor says trash trucks are not to go onto private roads.

City snow plows and sanding vehicles are also not supposed to service private roads.

Dunn said he had a longstanding gentlemen's agreement with a previous Public Works manager under which Dunn would plow his own road, but the city would sand it, and the sanding truck would turn around in his driveway.

Over the winter, somebody at the city discovered his road was private and the sanding stopped. Dunn complained to the city, noting the truck was still using his private road to turn around.

Dunn feels that complaint precipitated the end of his trash service, in a kind of municipal tit for tat.

"We're being singled out," he said. "This is child's play by the city."

He noted that his brother lives on a private street nearby and does get trash service.

City Manager Scott Myers said that is subject to change.

"If that's not a public street, we should not be having the truck go down there," he said.

Myers said there are many private roads on which the city does not provide services.

There also may be some roads that are private but do get services, perhaps through an oversight, or because a contractor doesn't realize the road is not public.

In any case, Myers said a study will be done later this summer to classify all roads and to clear up gray areas and confusion.

Meanwhile, he's offered an alternative for Dunn. He can carry his trash down 300 feet of his private road and place it at the public street, where it will be picked up.

04-26 Cal Dunn and his road 

Cal Dunn stands near a utility post along a private road leading to his home. He is upset that a city trash contractor has stopped picking up his rubbish under a contract provision that its trucks are not supposed to go on private roads. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)


LRCC president to step down May 18

LACONIA — Scott Kalicki, who has served as president of Lakes Region Community College since 2011, announced this week that he will step down at the end of this academic year.

"I thank the Chancellor and the CCSNH Board of Trustees for providing me the opportunity to serve, and I thank the members of the College community for their support during my time as president," said Kalicki. "I believe together we were successful in strengthening and moving the College forward, and I believe the campus is poised for a strong future."

Lakes Region Community College is a comprehensive community college accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Located in Laconia, New Hampshire, LRCC serves over 1,200 students annually. LRCC offers 28 associate degree programs including Nursing, Fire Technology, Business, Media Arts, Culinary Arts, Automotive and Marine Technology, as well as short-term certificate programs. In addition, LRCC provides a strong background in liberal arts for students who choose to do their first two years at a community college and then transfer to a four-year college or university for a baccalaureate degree.

LRCC is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire. The seven community colleges in the system are committed to working with businesses throughout the state to train and retain employees to develop a robust workforce across all sectors and embraces the "65 by 25 Initiative," which calls for 65 percent of New Hampshire citizens to have some form of post-secondary education by 2025 to meet future workforce demands. Ninety-three percent of the students enrolled within CCSNH are New Hampshire residents.

"LRCC has expanded its partnerships with area businesses, and taken steps to increase student success – critical parts of our mission," said Ross Gittell, Chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire.

Gittell said information about plans for interim leadership and next steps to fill the president position will be forthcoming.

Kalicki will officially step down May 18.

"I look forward to wrapping up the spring semester and celebrating the accomplishments of our students as we work our way to commencement," Kalicki said. Commencement is set for May 13.