Pasco County school district, employees reach contract deal
A nearly yearlong contract dispute between the Pasco County school district and its employee union ended amicably Wednesday, with the sides reaching agreement on the key points that separated them.
"We've been able to sign language to bring an end to impasse," district employee relations director Kathy Scalise said just after 1:30 p.m.
The United School Employees of Pasco declared negotiations with the county's largest employer had reached a point of no return in November. The sides have talked sporadically since, and recently sat through hearings before special magistrates who recommended resolutions.
Over the past week, they worked to secure a deal that did not require the School Board to impose any terms.
During four hours of talks Wednesday, the sides agreed to 3 percent raises for teachers and school-related personnel -- slightly more than the 2.65 percent the district originally offered in the spring, and slightly less than the 3.35 percent the United School Employees of Pasco requested.
District officials had insisted they had no more money to provide, while union leaders argued more money could be found in reserves and carry-forward accounts.
Scalise explained that the district now could offer the 3 percent because several employees who worked for the district at the start of the school year had left, making them ineligible for the increase, while new hires also would not qualify for the raise.
Practically speaking, a smaller mix of employees will now lay claim to the same pot of money, making the raises bigger.
The USEP decided not to pursue its three-year push for guaranteed contract renewals for teachers on annual contract who earn an evaluation rating of "effective" or better. Lawmakers are considering eliminating school boards' powers to grant such guarantees, anyway.
"We'd rather have language that's advantageous to our employees," USEP president Kenny Blankenship said. "But we thought this was the best deal we could get. We're agreeable to that."
For the school-related personnel, the sides hashed out language to resolve a disagreement over leaves of absence. The details were not immediately available.
Blankenship stressed that USEP's representative councils, and not just its top leadership, supported the proposals and recommend ratification.
Employees will get to consider the tentative settlement some time in the next few weeks. The School Board also will have to ratify the agreement.
If approved, the pay raises would be retroactive to July 1, 2016.