Lockport school teachers have a new contract.

The deal, unanimously approved by the Board of Education Wednesday night, gives teachers with 16 or less years of experience a 0.4 percent increase in salary in the 2005-06 school year. Teachers at the top pay level of 17 or more years experience a 1.42 percent increase that will widen to 2.3 percent by 2007-08, the last year of the deal.

Also, Assistant Superintendent Gerald Stuitje said teachers will have two additional options for health insurance. The two new options are pared down plans that would save the district money. While enrollment in the health plans are voluntary,the contract offers monetary incentives for teachers to buy into the money-saving plans. Teachers would receive a $200 bonus to be applied to out-of-pocket health care costs if they are on single coverage if they opt into one of the new plans. That bonus increases to $400 per couple and $600 per family.

He called the negotiations over the new health care incentive plan “constructive and creative,” adding that “this was a way we could save significant amounts of money without getting into a knock-down-drag-out fight” over forcing teachers to accept a single plan.

Also, teacher opting to stay in the more expensive of the two plans currently offered would be charged higher premiums over time, something that combined with the bonus money for out-of-pocket costs, Stuitje hopes will save the district money.

The 534 member teachers union ratified the deal in a vote held Oct. 18.

Union President and high school English teacher Gail Niparts applauded the unanimous passage and thanked the district for the “very cordial collaboration.”

“We worked long and hard,” she said. “We understand the situation in Lockport and the Delphi situation. We didn’t over-reach.”

Niparts said the agreement, which had been in the works since March, was obtained because both sides came to the table with realistic expectations.

“I think this bodes well for the future of labor-management relations in Lockport City Schools,” she said.

In other board news, a final decision on the fate of a proposal to create varsity and junior varsity lacrosse teams will be made at the board’s next meeting Wednesday. Board members discussed the proposal by members of the district’s sports boosters to donate the club team’s equipment and continue fund-raising efforts in order to get varsity and junior varsity teams formed in advance of the spring season.

Lacrosse was not a part of the district’s current budget, so board members would need to come up with the funding. Exactly how much money the district would need is still unclear.

Board member Beverly P. McDonough restated her objection to carving lacrosse out of the current budget.

“These decisions, the budgets, were all laid out for public scrutiny,” she said. “The objection I have, the only objection, in voting to add lacrosse as a varsity sport to the Lockport City School District, is we have already voted on a budget.”

She cited unexpected costs in diesel fuel and natural gas that will exceed amount allotted for in the current budget as further reasons why adding lacrosse would pose a problem. She did say, however, that adding the sport into next year’s budget was a good idea.

“I would pledge to do that,” she said.

Board member John Linderman disagreed with McDonough, saying that the board already promised the lacrosse group it would be made a varsity sport last year.

“We move money around all the time,” he said. “Last year ... we didn’t put it in the budget. I think this is a good time to support this effort. This is the time we should offer our assistance.”

Board President W. Keith McNall pledged that a final vote on the lacrosse issue would come next week.

Contact Eric DuVall at (716) 439-9222, Ext. 6251.

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