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New Ringgold contract likely

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Ringgold School Board director Bill Stein believes it's not a matter of if, but when, the district and its teachers' union will hammer out a new contract.

“We're committed to each other to not discussing anything specific about the talks,” said Stein, the board's chief negotiator. “They're moving along and I hope to get this resolved some time soon.”

The most recent pact expired June 30. The two sides are expected to meet next Oct 15.

Stein said progress has been made.

“Both sides are really committed to coming up with a contract,” Stein said. “The teachers are handling themselves professional and our side is, too. And with that attitude I think we're going to work it out.”

While the school board in neighboring Elizabeth Forward will consider a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board fact-finding recommendation when it meets Wednesday, contract talks for Ringgold are being handled internally.

“We both believe we can handle this and get to where we want to be,” Stein said. “I'm hopeful that will happen sooner than later, but there is a process. At end of the day, there's going to be a contract.”

Stein said the board took into account a new teachers' contract when it approve the 2013-14 school year budget. But that formula was complicated by other factors, such as state subsidies for education, the district's obligation under the Public School Employees' Retirement System and potential health care costs for employees.

“We're evaluating what each other is willing to give and accept,” Stein said. “Sooner or later we will come up with a new contract.”

The district's finances moving forward will also be impacted by the decisions the board makes about future housing for students.

“We have to separate those issues,” Stein said. “We've budgeted to go ahead with a new building. For years, we've had 2 mills dedicated to major projects of school districts.”

One of those projects is a new middle school.

The board is proceeding with plans to construct a middle school on the Carroll Township campus where the high school is located. It would replace Ringgold Middle School — the former Finley Middle School building — which had been shifting as a result of a now-dormant pyrite below the surface of the building. Architects have told the board the building is currently safe for occupancy.

The state currently is not accepting applications under its Planning and Construction Workbook. Known as PlanCon, this state program is a set of forms and procedures used to apply for state reimbursement of costs for new building construction.

The board is waiting for state funding under PlanCon before moving ahead with plans to construct a new middle school.

“Obviously the moratorium on building projects has affected primarily the middle school,” Stein said. “We would be stupid to move ahead without knowing if we're going get state funding.”

But Stein said plans should be advanced in the coming months on a project to expand Gastonville Elementary School, building permanent classrooms to replace mobile units currently used there.

“When the district went from three elementary schools down to two, it put greater strain on Gastonville and the need to deal with those facilities in paramount,” he said. “You expect some certain life out of those modular facilities, but not 20 or 30 years.”

Those decisions should come in the new year, after the voters have their final say on seven of nine board seats on the ballot.

“Those are major decisions and should be handled by the new board,” Stein said.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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