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Luverne school board ratifies teachers' contract

LUVERNE -- The Luverne Board of Education ratified the contract for teachers in the district Thursday night, officially ending months of negotiations with local teachers' union Luverne Education Association.

The district was one of more than 20 in the state that failed to meet the state-mandated Jan. 15 deadline for contract settlement, and faced a penalty of about $34,000 as a result -- a cost that will be absorbed by the district, said board chair and personnel committee member Vicki Baartman.

The approved contract will give teachers a 0.75 percent increase in their salary schedule for each of two years. All teachers who haven't already received a master's degree or higher and taught in the district for 16 years or more will also receive an increase based on education level and number of years in the district.

The union-sought 1 percent increase in the district's pay-in to its employees' health insurance plan was not in the final contract. The district will pay a total of $484,152 in health insurance costs, the same as in the 2008-2009 and the current academic year. The district will increase its total contribution to Teachers' Retirement Account and Federal Insurance Contributions Act funds by $18,665.

Baartman said the total salary package will increase by 5.63 percent during the next biennium, a figure that includes base salary and step- and lane-based increases, and increased contributions to TRA/FICA accounts.

Teachers will add an average of $3,651 in salary and benefits.

"I think everybody involved is glad that we're done with the process and I think everyone's trying to move on," Baartman said. "We're trying as a district to work for a balance between recognizing the good work that the teachers do with recognizing what's going on in our community with people losing jobs and businesses closing."