NLS board approves teacher contracts

NEW LONDON -- A labor agreement with New London-Spicer teachers was approved Monday by the NLS School Board. The agreement calls for an 8.2 percent increase in wages and benefits over the two-year contract with a 3.85 percent increase this school...

NEW LONDON -- A labor agreement with New London-Spicer teachers was approved Monday by the NLS School Board.

The agreement calls for an 8.2 percent increase in wages and benefits over the two-year contract with a 3.85 percent increase this school year and a 4.35 percent increase in the 2006-07 school year.

The new contract also removed the lowest step on the salary schedule because starting teacher salaries at NLS are lower than school districts of similar size. A starting teacher was paid less than $30,000 a year, but will now be paid $30,963 in this school year and $32,006 in the 2006-07 school year.

"The first year salary is much more in line with other school districts," said board member Karen Nelson, a member of the negotiation committee.

The district's health insurance contribution will increase $350 each year so that teachers will receive $7,341 this school year and $7,691 next school year.


The district also increased the retirement health insurance coverage for eligible teachers retiring between July 1, 2005, and June 30, 2007. The district will contribute up to $2,400 a year for eight years with a maximum of $19,200 instead of contributing for seven years at a $16,800 maximum.

As of Monday, 98 teachers had ratified the contract while four did not vote in favor of it, Superintendent Paul Carlson said. A few teachers have not yet voted, he said.

The contract was unanimously approved by the board. Board members Mike O'Brien, Greg Hedman and Wayne Friedrich were absent.

Also Monday, the board selected Johnson Controls of Minneapolis for an energy savings project. The district advertised for proposals for the project, but Johnson Controls provided the only proposal. The project is estimated to cost $601,651. Johnson Controls has said it will guarantee that the energy savings will pay for the project in 15 years.

The district and Johnson Controls now can prepare a guaranteed energy savings contract and related documents. If an agreement can be reached, the board would consider a resolution to award the contract to Johnson Controls in January.

Part of the energy improvement project includes replacing single-pane windows in the middle school, replacing a boiler and installing low-flow toilets, sinks and showers.

The district will borrow money to pay for the project until the energy savings are realized, Carlson said. If the district does not save as much as Johnson Controls promises, the company will write NLS a check for the difference, he said.

Related to the energy savings plan, the school board also approved a "review and comment" packet about a proposed health and safety project to submit to the state Department of Education. The project needs state approval because it costs more than $500,000.


If approved, the district would issue $3,515,000 in general obligation bonds over 20 years to fund the project. With interest, the bonds are estimated to total $5,990,160.

The bonds would be repaid with a local tax increase through a 20-year health and safety levy. The first year of the increase is expected to be $130,000.

Taxes on residential and agricultural homesteads valued at $100,000, for example, are estimated to increase $17 annually.

At its last meeting, the board approved a letter of intent hiring Johnson Controls to manage the project, provided the state approves the project and the district's legal counsel approves the company's contracts.

Also at the meeting, the board approved $1,600 for its 2006 membership with PACT 4 Families Collaborative. PACT 4 is a family services and children's mental health collaborative that serves people in Kandiyohi, Meeker, Yellow Medicine and Renville counties and the Upper Sioux Community.

The board discussed the membership at length because the district was not awarded grants through PACT 4 this year for programs that the collaborative had funded in the past. NLS and other school districts in the county did not receive any Local Collaborative Time Study, or LCTS, grants this year, while programs in Willmar did.

PACT 4 said at the time that there wasn't enough funding to fund all requests. It had $1,107,627 available for Kandiyohi County programs for the two-year funding cycle, but received requests totaling $2.28 million.

Nelson asked if there was any way to assure that what happened this year won't happen again. Carlson said there wasn't and said the federal government is making changes to LCTS funding and there may not be as much money available next year.


The district does, however, still receives PACT 4 funding to pay 80 percent of the cost for a part-time social worker and money for an after school program. District staff said the $1,600 is well worth what the district receives from PACT 4.

After the discussion, the board unanimously approved the membership.

Also at the meeting, the board approved the 2006 levy at $2,641,834, which is a 8.82 percent increase from this year.

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