Pasco teachers, school-related employees counter district furlough proposal
The United School Employees of Pasco surprised school district negotiators on Wednesday with a full salary and benefits request that also would whittle down the district's furlough proposal from three days to one for all non-full-year workers.
Acknowledging a fourth year of "severe financial crisis," the USEP does not ask for raises or salary step increases, with the intent that all employees continue to earn the same amount they did in 2010-11. The group also proposes that the district continue to pay the same amount toward health insurance benefits as last year, plus any projected premium increase.
These are in line with positions the district has taken.
The differences arose in the furlough proposals.
The School Board has called for four-day mandatory unpaid leaves for all 12-month employees and three-day leaves for all others. It already has begun taking deductions from the paychecks of nonbargaining employees, such as administrators. The goal is to save about $6 million.
The USEP countered that it would accept just one furlough day, and asked that it be a school day -- not a paid holiday, as had been floated at a previous bargaining session.
"It's time to stop sheltering our community from our schools’ financial crisis," USEP president Lynne Webb said in a prepared statement. "Teachers and SRP alone cannot make up for the revenue shortfalls foisted upon us by the legislature. We’re at the point that our system cannot continue to operate the same way."
She also demanded that no savings generated by a furlough be carried forward to future years' budgets.
Employee relations director Kevin Shibley, the district's lead negotiator, said he considered the USEP's proposal a good-faith effort toward reaching an acceptable contract. Its furlough recommendation could prove a sticking point, he said, as it does not go as far as the board had called for.
Still, Shibley said, "It's a good starting place."
He said he would take the USEP proposal back to the superintendent and board for review. The sides have tentatively scheduled another round of talks for next week Wednesday or Thursday.