Pasco officials reveal "Item 2" budget cut
A day after it won tentative approval in the FY2014 budget, Item 2 — a $1.5 million spending cut — became public during contract negotiations with the district's non-instructional staff.
The plan, which neither staff nor board members would discuss during a public hearing, calls for the elimination of an early retirement benefit that the district had offered since 1997. It has been used to supplement the retirement pay of workers who left the district shy of full vesting in the state pension system, and who had 25 years of service (including at least 12 years of service in the district), and who had reached the top of the pay schedule.
If employees aren't in the system by Sept. 30, the proposal states, they wouldn't be eligible any longer. See the proposal here.
Board members said they wanted to reveal the information at their budget hearing, in the name of transparency. But they did not want to damage contract negotiations by presenting the details too soon.
"It had been tossed around in a previous executive session" along with several other ideas that the board agreed to as possible cuts to discuss, vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley said. "None of them are things we'd really like to do."
But as the district worked to balance its budget, it needed to cut about $26 million in spending.
"We said, Negotiate with them and see what the consensus is, and what their feelings are," board member Steve Luikart said.
United School Employees of Pasco representatives expressed some concerns about the plan, but did not offer a formal response. The USEP is still waiting for a proposal over "Item 1" and its estimated $1 million in cost savings.