'We would hold everyone harmless to start with'
With speculation and anxiety building about sick leave payouts, interim Pinellas Superintendent John Stewart reiterated a point at yesterday's school board meeting that he has consistently made since he first broached the possibility of a cap at the Oct. 4 workshop: If some kind of cap is put into place, it would not impact the unused sick leave that employees have already accumulated, he said. Instead, it would apply to the unused leave that is racked up from the time the cap is set.
"I did say in the (beginning) of this that we would hold everyone harmless to start with," he told the board during the superintendent's report. "That's the main critical piece in it. Then we start the fix of it. I believe it's a reasonable way to deal with it."
Any change would have to be bargained. It would also need board approval.
Stewart also reiterated a point he made last week in an interview with The Gradebook: The eventual savings from a cap could be used to boost salaries.
He told The Gradebook: "Any money that's saved from that point forward can be used for other purposes in the district, not the least of which is salary increases and things like that."
He told the board: A cap is a "reasonable way that we can say take some of those recurring expenses and apply it to a raise. It takes about $6 million to give everybody a 1 percent raise. Well, if it (a cap) stays in place long enough, there is a way to get at least 1 percent for everyone. So let's take a long, hard look at it and not let everybody jump to conclusions and think this is the wrong thing from the get go. Because it isn't. It is something we need to take a look at. Be open to what the possibilities are as we explore this issue."