Pasco school employees demand steps, reject furlough
Relying in part on more than $11 million in new federal stimulus dollars coming to the district, the United School Employees of Pasco has turned down the School Board's proposed one-day furlough and called for all employees to get their annual step increases for the first time in three years.
USEP president Lynne Webb noted that the Edujobs bill requires school districts to spend the money on salaries and benefits to retain, recall or hire school employees, and may not be used for general administrative expenses or be held in reserve. The Congress also stated that the money should be spent this fiscal year, though it can carry forward into 2011-12.
It further prohibits states that receive the funds from setting the money aside for rainy day funds.
"Without the Education Jobs Bill President Obama signed on August 10th, our economic proposal would look quite different," Webb said.
District officials have raised concerns that key Florida lawmakers have signaled their intent to take an amount equal to the Edujobs funds out of next year's education budget, and consider the federal money received this year as part of next year's funding. They said they feel caught in the middle of the state plans, which appear to run counter to the federal law, and the union demands.
Webb suggested that district leaders in Pasco and around the state need to stand up to state lawmakers and not let them hijack the federal funding program and interfere in the collective bargaining process.
The highlights of USEP's economic proposal, valued at about $7.7 million in additional expenses before retirement and taxes, include:
- Annual step increases retroactive to the start of the school year.
- One-time “EduJobs” lump-sum supplement (not a bonus) to be paid before winter break ($500 for teachers, and for SRP: an amount equal to 25 cents per hour times the annual number of hours).
- Fingerprinting retention fees.
- Continuation of Budgetary Committee for the 2010-2011 school year.
- Development of early retirement incentives for the conclusion of the 2010-2011 school year.
- An increase of $240 per eligible employee toward the cost of the health insurance benefit package.
The School Board is scheduled to discuss negotiations during an executive session on Friday. The sides have not scheduled the next date for talks to resume.