Edujobs money likely hurdle as Pasco contract talks resume
Representatives for the Pasco School Board and the district employees return to the bargaining table Wednesday evening, with money on the line.
With the district budget settled, and insurance packages chosen, the United School Employees of Pasco plans to bring forth its first economic proposal for consideration (barring any unforeseen circumstances). The USEP also intends to respond to the district's proposal for a furlough.
Association president Lynne Webb was not prepared to talk about the details yet, as she had not met with building representatives for their input. That takes place later tonight. But she did signal that she expects the district to use the bulk of its share of the federal education jobs bill to cover teacher salaries, benefits and the like.
Kevin Shibley, the district's director of employee relations, told the Gradebook that he has concerns about using those millions of dollars this year after hearing comments by key state lawmakers earlier this month.
The chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees both warned school districts to set aside the amount of the award for next year, when the state budget is expected to worsen. Senate chairman J.D. Alexander said at a Sept. 14 Legislative Budget Commission meeting:
"The federal government has dictated terms of this award to require that these funds be spent and not held in reserve, even though we face an incredibly challening budget outlook in our next fiscal year, 2011-12. Therefore, I would like to strongly suggest that all school districts spend these funds as required, but reserve or set aside a like amount from other state or local funds to be available for the district in 2011-12.
Shibley said Pasco, like other districts, is in a "holding pattern trying to figure out the terms and conditions of this money." If the Legislature is going to count the cash as part of next year's budget, he said, "we need to be extremely cautious about how we spend that money this year."
Webb said she was not surprised that the Legislature "wants to circumvent the the intent of the education jobs bill." She remained hopeful that the district will spend the money on the stated purpose of maintaining salaries, benefits and jobs as the Congress directed. Stay tuned.