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School Board, teacher review budget, other issues in contract negotiations

The Grand Forks School District budget for next year is expected to increase by about 1 percent, the district's business manager told School Board and teacher representatives who are negotiating the district's teacher contract for 2018-19.

"That would be about $1 million on a $102 million budget," Ed Gerhardt said at a meeting Monday at the Mark Sanford Education Center.

In his report, Gerhardt responded to questions the teachers' team had posed about the budget and other issues when the two groups last met to hammer out contract details in April.

Grand Forks Public Schools can count on a 2 percent increase in revenue, or about $385,000, from the increase in property values for next year's budget, Gerhardt said.

"That's the projection we received from the city assessor, Paul Houdek, when we met in January or February," he said.

The funding the district receives from the state, $9,646 per student, "will be unchanged next year," Gerhardt said.

The amount the state deducts from its contribution, based on property tax revenue, will increase from $13.3 million this year to $13.9 next year, or $671,000, he said.

Student enrollment this year is 7,416, Gerhardt said, and is estimated to increase by 120 for the 2018-19 school year.

This financial picture was presented along with detailed information on what the district budgets in areas such as travel, supplies, cellphones, field trips and professional staff salaries. Cellphone expenses are covered for those employees—such as principals, custodians and others—who are required, due to their job responsibilities, to carry a district cellphone, Gerhardt said.

Members of the School Board teacher contract negotiating team are Matt Spivey, Amber Flynn, Cynthia Shabb and board President Doug Carpenter.

Negotiating for teachers are Adam Tunseth, Nikki Polum, Penny Tandeski, Matt Bakke, Paul Strande and Tom Young, president of the Grand Forks Education Association.

The teams are reviewing and tweaking contract language to achieve more clarity or accuracy.

Concerning a section on credits necessary for continuation of contact, the need for clarification about licensure for social workers and occupational and physical therapists was discussed at some length Monday.

Staff members in those fields have different requirements to maintain licensure than do teachers, said Young.

"Why include any licensure requirements regarding social workers, PTs and OTs?" he said.

In the Grand Forks School District, those staff members are included in the teacher contract salary schedule, said Tracy Abentroth, the district's human resources officer.

After a brief caucus, the School Board team presented a modification of that section, which was not approved by the teachers' team.

It was decided that each negotiating team would craft language to improve that section for consideration at the next meeting.

Tandeski asked that clarification of a $200,000 car allowance budget item be brought to the next meeting.

The School Board team asked the teachers group to bring a proposal concerning maternity leave to the next negotiating session, which is set for 5 p.m. May 21 at the Mark Sanford Education Center.