Magistrate proposes compromise in Pasco school-related personnel contract impasse
Five months after negotiations broke down, a special magistrate has issued his report to resolve contract disputes between the Pasco County school district and its non-instructional personnel.
His recommendations include a compromise on raises and job transfers, and support of the district's stance on leaves of absence.
The debate over salary increases received the most attention.
The United School Employees of Pasco requested a 3.35 percent pay hike, claiming its members are underpaid compared to similar districts. The district offered 2.7 percent, saying it could afford no more given other budget demands.
Magistrate Kenneth Starr called for a retroactive, across-the-board 3 percent raise:
"Perhaps the safer road is to simply conclude the District's last salary offer should be implemented. The Special Magistrate declines to take that road. He has reached the reasonable conclusion that SRPs continue to be underpaid vis-à-vis similarly situated statutorily designed workers in other school districts. He also concludes the District has undisclosed ways to 'shift' funds to cover priority expenditures and, though it asserts the Bargaining Unit's requested salary increase will cost more than suggested by the Union, it has failed to present any evidence as to the actual cost."
On job transfers, Starr also sought to split the difference between the two sides' positions. He agreed with the district that employees should not be able to dictate all the terms of where they work. However, he also found it unreasonable not to give current workers priority over outside applicants.
He recommended giving the staff seniority rights to existing open jobs within the district, but also proposed some restrictions such as a limit on the number and frequency of transfers.
On leaves of absence, Starr sided with the district in cutting back the amount of leave time an employee may take during a year before being deemed "on assignment" and losing some job protections.
Representatives from the USEP and district declined to comment on the ruling. Each said they wanted to confer with the other side before making public statements.
Superintendent Kurt Browning added that he would be briefing the School Board on the recommendations and seeking its direction. If the sides agree on the terms, that would end the impasse. If not, the board would have final say.
The sides still await a ruling from a different magistrate on teacher contract negotiations.