It's time to talk money at Pasco school employee contract negotiations
Pasco County school-related personnel and teachers head back to bargaining on Wednesday and Thursday, with salary and benefits the focus of conversation.
Although the sides have yet to reach agreement on many non-financial issues, representatives from each told the Gradebook that they intend to bring pay proposals to the table. They're not expected to be close.
The United School Employees of Pasco have made clear their desire to tap into the district's unreserved general fund balance to bolster wages, particularly of the district's lowest paid workers. The School Board has insisted on keeping its reserves at 5 percent, but USEP operations director Jim Ciadella asked the board to go lower, as permitted in law.
"Send a message that employees are clearly of importance to the board," Ciadella said.
The board, through its budget, has indicated its general unwillingness to touch the reserves. It set aside money to cover raises that average around 2.7 percent, with an additional amount to pay for added health insurance and retirement costs.
Superintendent Kurt Browning sent a message to employees, via email, video and public comments, saying that offer represented "the best we could do."
Those communications irked USEP president Kenny Blankenship, who last week fired off a letter accusing Browning of interfering with the collective bargaining process. That's something that former superintendent Heather Fiorentino, whom the USEP opposed in favor of Browning, refused to do -- even when directly asked questions by teachers or staff, Blankenship noted.
So far, Browning has not responded to the union letter. "Not a word," Blankenship said.
"We're investigating what our options are," he added. "They have to negotiate in good faith."