Gilmanton voters say no to teacher contract, ballots are counted in the dark
By DAVID CARKHUFF, THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — In a difficult election where a storm knocked out power and ballots were counted by lantern light, teachers saw their collective bargaining agreement with the school district rejected at the polls.
Gilmanton voters turned down the collective bargaining agreement reached between the Gilmanton School Board and the Gilmanton Education Association calling for increases in salaries and benefits of $41,311 in 2017-2018; $129,327 in 2018-2019; and $133,211 in 2019-2020.
Article 12, the collective bargaining agreement between the district and teachers, failed — the only school district article to do so.
This article failed 423-384.
Due to concerns with health insurance costs, the Budget Committee voted against recommending the teachers' contract.
As costs continued to rise, the GEA put forth a proposal in the new contract to switch to a high deductible plan of $2,000 for single coverage and $4,000 for a two-person or family plan, allowing the district to shoulder a higher percentage of the cost but not a greater amount, officials said. The 85 percent share that the district now pays for teachers' health insurance was slated to rise to 97 percent under the contract, but the cost to the district was not expected to rise because of the teachers' willingness to take on higher deductibles, teacher Erin Hollingsworth explained. She and others urged the contract's support at the deliberative session of School District Meeting, but voters turned it down.
The vote rejecting the teachers' collective bargaining agreement was 423-384, according to Rachel Hatch, administrative assistant in SAU No. 79, Gilmanton School District.
A pair of three-year school board terms drew three candidates: Michelle (Smithers) Heyman, Michael Teunessen and incumbent Frank Weeks.
In final voting, Weeks and Heyman won the two School Board seats.
In a candidates' forum last week, the School Board hopefuls described their backgrounds.
Heyman is a former student at Gilmanton Elementary School and a graduate of Gilford High School in 1994. She earned a business administration degree at University of New Hampshire. Heyman said she has been involved with the high school options committee (Gilmanton maintains a tuition agreement with Gilford High School), the school improvement committee and the space needs committee. Heyman served as president of the Parent-Teachers Association.
Weeks said he taught for 40 years, in Alton, Farmington and Rochester. Weeks questioned the level of deductibles in the teachers' contract, $2,000 for single teachers and $4,000 for couples or families. He pointed to his younger son's time at Gilmanton Elementary School, which gave him a positive drama and music experience and taught him Spanish. Weeks served on the School Board for six years and previously held a School Board seat at St. Thomas Aquinas. He is also involved at Gilford High School with performing arts and athletics.
Hatch said vote counting occurred in the worst of conditions.
"We did all the absentee ballots last night in the dark, by lantern," she said Wednesday, after a nor'easter finally ended and power was restored.
"It was a perfect storm, literally," Hatch said.
The ballot machine was damaged during one of the outages, so another machine had to be acquired, and once they found a place with power, staff had to feed every single ballot back into the machine by hand, she said.
Gilmanton poll workers had to deal with a power outage on Election Day due to the blizzard. (Courtesy photo)
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