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Groton - A new three-year contract with the teachers' union will increase school spending by $2.5 million over the next three years, or an average of 2.5 percent per year through the 2015-16 school year.
The negotiated agreement between the Board of Education and 454-member Groton Education Association was ratified by the school board on Nov. 13 and given a nod of approval by the Town Council on Tuesday.
Councilor Bruce Flax said while a 7.5 percent increase was at first met with some trepidation by council members, the state average is more than 9 percent, and the contract appears to be the best deal for the town. Councilors said a vote against the contract would have sent the two sides back into costly arbitration.
The contract is for Sept. 1, 2013, through Aug. 31, 2016, and was signed following negotiations and one mediation session.
"I thought negotiations went well. Both sides came out with some gains," said school board member Robert Peruzzotti, a member of the board's negotiations team.
"There was never any animosity," he said.
For all except the most senior teachers in the system, the contract provides a 0.75 percent wage increase for the next school year, a 0.45 percent increase in the second year and no raise in the third year.
The school district uses a step system for teachers, which starts at Step 1 for new teachers and peaks at Step 13. A new teacher with a bachelor's degree, at Step 1, earned $45,758 this year. Under the new contract, that same teacher would start at $46,102.
Veteran teachers in the system, at Step 13 or more, will receive 1.5 percent, 1.4 percent and 1.24 percent increases, respectively, over the next three years.
As an example, a teacher with 13 years of experience and a bachelor's degree who earned $75,540 this year would earn $76,673 under the new contract.
The current contract, signed in 2009, called for no wage increases for teachers in the 2010-11 school year, a 1.5 percent increase for only senior teachers in 2011-12 and a 1.38 average increase for all teachers this school year.
The overall impact of the new contract on the upcoming school budget, which has remained at $72.6 million for the past three years, is an increase of $911,073 in spending for the first year, $850,816 in the second year and $784,123 in the third year, Peruzzotti said.
Salaries in the school system accounted for $46.8 million of the overall education budget last year, with another $8.8 million spent on benefits. The education budget made up 60.1 percent of the $120.8 million overall town budget.
Teachers, under the new contract, will be paying more for health insurance with higher co-payments and a larger percentage of cost-sharing.
The new contract also makes significant cuts to severance packages, which Peruzzotti said he hopes will eventually be phased out completely. Those who have served a minimum of 15 years in the system were given one day of pay for every school year worked. After next year, those hitting the 15-year mark will earn one day for every two years in the system.
A three-year contract with the 29-member Association of Groton School Administrators that went into effect on July 1 calls for no salary increases in 2012-13, a 1 percent increase the following year and a 2 percent increase in the final year.
Contract negotiations with paraprofessionals are ongoing.