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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

On the table: One unpaid holiday for Pasco teachers



As the Pasco County School Board approaches a final vote on its FY 2011 budget, it remains millions of dollars off the target of balancing expenses and income.

This week, the board sought to close some of the hole.

During contract negotiations with teachers, the board proposed that all instructional staff convert one paid holiday during 2010-11 to an unpaid holiday. "The reduction in the number of paid holidays in combination with the other cost saving measures identified in the Board’s initial 2010-2011 budget reduction plan, are expected to generate the cost savings needed to balance the District’s budget for the 2010-2011 school year."

Representatives of the United School Employees of Pasco didn't act on the offer. They have raised hopes that a new round of federal stimulus money might forestall the need to implement a furlough and other drastic actions that hurt members' financial well being.

District officials, meanwhile, tell the Gradebook that they're reluctant to count on one-time funding for ongoing costs -- particularly when they still have no idea when the money might come and what specific rules the feds will set forth for its use.

"Our biggest concern is if we spend more nonrecurring money on recurring expenses this year, we're just going to be exacerbating the funding cliff," district lead negotiator Kevin Shibley said, referring to the district's expected loss of close to $30 million in stimulus funds next year. "We're just trying to be cautious."

Other key issues remain unsettled, including an early retirement buyout plan and employee health benefits. Shibley said a committee is getting close to an insurance proposal that would provide a core plan at no cost to employees with "buy-up" options. The early retirement plan is a more distant goal.

If all these things don't come to agreement, the district faces some tough choices to balance the budget. Sept. 14 is the big day. Keep watching.

[Last modified: Friday, August 27, 2010 2:06pm]


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