Merrimack Valley teacher contract and Andover agreement on the table for annual meeting

  • Voters enter Merrimack Valley High School auditorium before the school district's annual meeting Thursday.

Monitor staff
Published: 1/26/2023 5:44:39 PM
Modified: 1/26/2023 5:44:14 PM

Increasing wages for teachers and renewing a tuition agreement with Andover are focal points for the Merrimack Valley School District this year.

At the annual meeting on March 10, voters will be asked to approve a new contract with teachers and a proposed school budget of $45.6 million. They will also be asked to approve a 10-year tuition agreement with the Andover School District.

School board members and administrators presented the draft warrant for the annual meeting to community members at a budget public hearing Tuesday.

The three-year contract with the Merrimack Valley Education Association would include an increase of $493,613 for salaries and benefits in the 2023-2024 school year, followed by an additional $362,519 increase in 2024-2025 and an additional $420,121 increase in 2025-2026.

“In order to attract and retain teachers, we need to be competitive with the current marketplace,” School Board member Sally Hirsh-Dickinson said. “We are hopeful that along with the great working environments in our schools and communities, this agreement will indeed allow the district to attract and retain talented and innovative teachers.”

The proposed school operating budget for 2023-2024 is $45.6 million, a 2.28% increase over this year’s budget of $44.5 million.

Unlike other school districts this month, Merrimack Valley school officials did not share any estimated tax impact calculations at their budget public hearing. The district plans to complete its estimated tax impact projections for residents of sending towns in time for the annual meeting, according to Superintendent Mark MacLean.

The main drivers of this year’s $1 million budget increase include an 11.1% hike in employee health and dental benefits from the school benefits provider, which has raised the budget by about $498,007. It also includes a $216,931 increase due to previously-determined bargaining agreements with administrators and support staff, and increases in special education costs.

The special education costs include a $487,067 increase in tuition costs and $200,000 in contracted transportation costs to accommodate student needs in attending other schools.

“These increases are based on changing student needs and are based on what we know about the student population at this time,” said School Board member Tracy Bricchi.

Some of that new spending will be offset by some savings in other areas.

Retirement contributions will decrease next year, which will save the District about $202,291. The district has also reduced several teacher salary lines in the budget, as several teachers are planning to retire, and their positions will not be replaced.

The district is proposing a $30,415 decrease in career and technical education costs, due to declining enrollment of Merrimack Valley students at the Concord Regional Technical Center.

The tuition agreement with the Andover School District allows Andover students to attend Merrimack Valley High School for grades 9 to 12, since Andover doesn’t have its own high school. Andover students have been attending Merrimack Valley High School since the 1970s. According to the current agreement, Andover pays tuition based on a percentage of per-pupil cost, and provides transportation to MVHS. The updated agreement would begin in July 2024 and last 10 years, expiring in June 2034.

“They conferred with all school districts around, and we were very pleased and honored that the Andover School Board members and community of Andover decided to continue the relationship they had with Merrimack Valley,” said School Board member Lorrie Carey.

The district’s annual meeting will take place Friday, March 10 at 7 p.m. in the Merrimack Valley High school gymnasium.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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