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The Wilson School Board unanimously approved a three-year contract with the Wilson Teachers Association Tuesday, and scheduled a referendum on two financial propositions.

The union had overwhelmingly ratified the agreement last Wednesday.

Business Administrator William R. Leardini said the teachers will receive average raises of 1.5 percent during the current school year, 1.4 percent in 1998-99, and 1.3 percent in 1999-2000.

The raises are in addition to increments which are obtained as teachers progress through the 20-step salary schedule. Leardini said those increments average 2 percent a year.

The starting salary for a Wilson teacher, which was $26,550 in 1996-97, will increase to $27,000 this year and $27,700 by the final year of the contract. Top pay for a teacher with 20 years' experience and a master's degree, was $63,251 last year. Leardini said it will rise to $64,500 this year and $68,000 by 1999-2000.

Teachers Association President Mary Moley-Palacios said, "We understand that it's a collective bargaining process. The district is giving what it can."

The contract gives elementary principals the power to direct teachers to either come in early or stay after school for a total of 60 minutes a month, for meetings and other activities.

Tenured teachers will be allowed to opt out of the traditional Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance plan and join a health maintenance organization yet to be chosen.

If they do so, the district will pay their full premium, which Leardini estimated would be $3,500 a year. Under the traditional plan, the premium would be about $5,000, but the teacher pays 10 percent of it.

Coaching salaries will be increased an average of 5 percent a year, and coaches will receive extra pay, pro-rated from their normal stipend, if their team extends its season by qualifying for playoff competition.

Also Tuesday, the School Board scheduled a Dec. 10 referendum on two propositions. Neither proposal will impact property taxes, Leardini said.

One would authorize the spending of $874,000 for repairs to the high school auditorium, which was renovated last year but gutted in a still-unsolved arson fire in March. Leardini said the money will come from the district's insurance settlement.

He said the insurance payout will be more than $874,000, but the district has already spent about $300,000 of it in advance for cleaning up the building in the wake of the fire, and replacing athletic uniforms and textbooks ruined by the blaze. If any money is left after the auditorium repairs, Leardini said the district will tackle other projects, including moving the high school guidance office from the second floor to the first floor, moving technology classes from the industrial arts building to the middle school, and completed parking lot blacktopping.

The second proposition would establish a $1.75 million capital reserve fund for use in further work in 1998-99. Leardini said most of that money will come from CWM Chemical Services' gross receipts tax.

Leardini said there will be no state aid on the auditorium repairs, but next year, the state will reimburse the district for 92.5 percent of building project costs, an increase from the current 82.5 percent aid.

However, any spending from the new capital fund, if the voters approve it, would require a future referendum.

In other action Tuesday, the board:

Announced that, in a special meeting Oct. 2, it had authorized emergency repairs because of flooding in the high school boiler room and crawl space. The flooding, caused by heavy rains, required a new sump pump and other work. The board authorized spending of up to $70,000 for the repairs.

Announced the formation of a committee to study whether Wilson should start a prekindergarten program in advance of what Superintendent Daniel T. Connor said is an anticipated state mandate to do so in 2002.

Hired Action Auction Services, operated by County Legislator and former School Board president Shirley G. Urtel and her husband, to conduct an auction of surplus district property at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 8 in the high school. Their fee will be $150 plus 20 percent of the proceeds.

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