Land buy, teachers’ contract on Milford ballot

MILFORD – There are a slew of contested races in the New Hampshire primary election next week, but two ballot items of special interest in Milford have nothing to do with elected offices.

A contract for Milford teachers and purchase of recreation land are on the ballot as a result of special school and town meetings.

The vote on Ballot Question 1, the purchase of the 5.8 acre property at 127 Elm St., is almost a formality since $80,800 of the $190,000 the town is asking voters to appropriate is being raised through pledged donations.

The former site of the Permattach Diamond Tool Company is adjacent to Keyes Park and will provide additional recreation space as well as second access to Keyes during the Fletcher Paint Superfund cleanup next year.

The school district ballot item asks for $545,000 worth of increases for teachers this year, based on recommendations from a fact-finder hired to help settle a contract dispute between the Milford Teachers Association and the Milford School Board.

The $545,000 would cover increases in teachers’ salaries and in wage-driven benefits for 2014-15.

Negotiations on the three-year contract resolved all but one issue: the School Board’s wish for a third tier of health insurance, which would require new teachers – those who have not been hired yet – to accept a 5 percent higher share of their premiums.

The factfinder recommended that the board drop that proposal and that the teachers’ association drop its proposal for a 2.25 percent cost of living adjustment in the contract’s third year.

The teachers had agreed to accept the nonbinding recommendations, but the School Board didn’t, sending the matter to voters.

The School Board argued that the wage increases it is offering over three years – 1.5 percent in the first year, and 2 percent each in years 2 and 3 – is generous, and the creation of a Group 3 for health insurance is “an extremely modest proposal.”

The warrant article needs only a simple majority to pass. If it passes, the school tax rate would go up 31 cents, above the current rate $19.42 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.

For the contract’s second year, the cost would be $577,736 and for the third year, 2016-17, the cost would be $559,421.

Passage of the warrant article would also give the board authority to sign a contract with teachers, said School Board member Paul Dargie, but would not require the board to do so.

A deliberative session for this article saw some discussion about whether to “zero out” the item – that is, reduce the dollar amount to zero, effectively negating any vote. That did not happen, however.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@c