Hernando teachers on verge of getting raise
BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando County teachers are on the verge of getting something almost unheard of in Florida this year: a raise.
Tonight the School Board will vote on a contract that would give teachers a 2.39 percent average pay increase for the current year, plus 1.5 percent more to cover health care increases. Nonteaching staffers would see comparable raises of 2.37 percent along with the health care boost.
A majority of board members say they're planning to vote in the affirmative, despite the fiscal storm clouds on the horizon.
"To get an increase in your salary at all is quite amazing," said superintendent Wayne Alexander, estimating it as one of the largest raises in all of Florida's 67 counties.
At last count, just 18 of those counties have approved raises, said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers' Union. Hillsborough County has managed a 2 percent raise for teachers, but Pasco is at an impasse and Pinellas is still in negotiations.
How did Hernando do it?
By dipping deep into its reserves, among other things. Under the new budget, just 1.2 percent of its general fund would be set aside for emergencies. That's a far cry from the 2.7 percent in the fund last year, or the 2.5 percent the state recommends.
But Alexander said he can't abide squirreling away money that could be used to help attract and retain teachers.
"As a board, we spend what we have to improve education," he said. "It makes me nervous, but historically this board has never had a large fund balance."
For more, read tomorrow's St. Petersburg Times or visit Tampabay.com.
Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer