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After more than a year without a contract, the 370 teachers in the Lancaster Central School District are working under a three-year pact that gives them a total 8.6 percent raise.

The contract, ratified this week by the School Board after a favorable union vote last month, is retroactive to Sept. 1, 1996, and will raise salaries 2.8 percent this year and next year, with a 3 percent increase covering the contractless 1996-97 school year.

Under the finalized contract, in the current academic year a beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree and no graduate credit hours will make $29,018, while a teacher at the top end of the district's pay scale will make $64,121.

Superintendent Joseph L. Girardi said the district is satisfied with the contract, which will expire Aug. 31, 1999. The tough year of negotiations between the district and the teachers' union came as the district was facing multiple budget defeats, including the defeat of a proposition for sports funding.

"Given the current climate, the fact that we have a contract is good," Girardi said. "This is a significantly lower salary (increase), compared with other districts in Erie County. . . . This helps our situation, but we're going to get hammered by Mr. Taxpayer anyway. They'd like people to work for free."

Bruce G. Smith, president of the Lancaster Central Teachers Association, was not available for comment Tuesday.

The salary and other increases in the new contract were anticipated in the district's current $47.1 million contingency budget, Girardi said.

According to district spokeswoman Patricia Burgio, last year's salary cost to the district was close to $17.5 million, while this year's salary price tag for teachers, building administrators, and school medical staff will be about $18.3 million. Other facets of the new contractinclude:

Graduate credit hours. Teachers who complete graduate course work will be paid $40 per credit hour per year in the current academic year and $45 per hour starting next year. Last year's rate for graduate course work was $37 per credit hour per year.

Curriculum work. For curriculum planning and development done for 20 hours per week during the summer, the rate of pay will now be $280 per week retroactive to last year, up from $250 per week in 1995-96.

Health insurance. Prescription co-payments for union members, which had been $3, will be raised to $7 this year and $10 next year.

Work day. There will be no changes in the current work day for teachers, set at 7 hours and 5 minutes per day. The district had sought to increase the work day to 7 1/2 hours per day, and to lengthen the school year from 186 days to 190 days.

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