Pasco County non-instructional contract issues go to hearing officer
Nearly four months after contract negotiations stalled, representatives for the United School Employees of Pasco and the Pasco County school district made their cases before a state hearing officer on Tuesday.
The sides spent nearly eight hours presenting details on salary, benefits and other disputed matters relating to the district's non-instructional bargaining unit, which includes bus drivers, instructional assistants and custodians. USEP leaders have asked for raises higher than the 2.68 percent the district offered, as well as for some attendance incentives, among other things.
USEP president Kenny Blankenship declared the talks had arrived at impasse in November.
"I think it went well," Blankenship said of the hearing, which took place in a school district conference room. "We did our best. Jim did a good job presenting our case."
USEP operations director Jim Ciadella said he went through detailed information about district finances and budgets, hoping to convince the hearing officer of the USEP's position.
"We believe we made very legitimate arguments," he said. "Quite frankly, so did the district."
The sides agreed to submit post-hearing briefs to the hearing officer by March 17. The hearing officer is expected to issue a ruling in late March or early April.
"Regardless of how this gentleman rules, it will go to the School Board as a recommendation," Ciadella said. "They ultimately have the ultimate authority."
School district officials involved in the hearing were not available for comment. The district and union are scheduled to have another hearing over teacher contract issues on March 7.