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Sides moving closer to settlement

It appears that the West Fargo Education Association and the West Fargo School Board could be drawing closer to settling contract talks.

During a session Monday night, WFEA lead negotiator Tim Scully presented a two-year salary and benefit proposal on behalf of the teachers calling for a 6.15 percent increase in total compensation for the years 2007 and 2008 and a 6.43 percent increase for 2008-2009.

The dollar increase of salary and benefits for the first year would be $1,569,977, bringing the District cost to $27,039,766. The second year of the proposal the increase for salary and benefits amounts to $1,738,990, with the District cost at $28,778,756.

Scully presented a detailed explanation of the proposal that also included a provision for five days of family sick leave for caring for aging parents or adult children in the existing leave package, as well as a sick leave buyout for unused days at retirement.

Following the presentation, the School District representatives caucused to discuss the package, coming back to the room with no counteroffer, but offering praise for how the proposal was drafted and presented.

School Board negotiating team members Tom Gentzkow and Angela Korsmo commended the effort with Gentzkow saying "it was very well-prepared and it's obvious a lot of thought went into it."

Korsmo agreed, saying there was more in the proposal than could be reacted to quickly, stating the need for more time. She noted that June 25 had been targeted as the date to have the negotiation process finished. "Obviously, we have more work to do," she stated before asking when the next session should be scheduled with the Fourth of July holiday next week.

WFEA negotiating team member Paula Pierson stated "I think we are all working hard to get done," suggesting the group meet again Monday night, July 2.

Scully added that he thought the proposal presented by his group was a good one. "We increased our communication to the point where we felt good," he said. "This is settlement stuff here."

The last offer the Board proposed was a 3.6 percent increase in salary and benefits for the first year, and a 4.46 percent increase the second year.

The last WFEA plan was a one-year proposal asking for a 7.73 percent salary increase with no changes to the index or health insurance benefits.

The next negotiations session will take place on Monday, July 2, at 5:30 p.m. in the Leidal Education Center Boardroom.