Pasco school district leaders aim to offer raises despite meager state funding increases
News of a smaller than expected funding boost for 2016-17 has disappointed Pasco County education leaders, who had high hopes for more amid Florida lawmakers' early talk of "historic" increases.
The lower numbers have not deterred district officials from their goal of giving employees a third straight raise of around 3 percent.
"To me, most of the bulk of our money should be spent on student achievement and employee success," School Board chairwoman Joanne Hurley told the Gradebook, noting that the district's "success plan" sets those two areas as its top two priorities.
Early projections suggest that Pasco schools could get $16 million in new funding for the next academic year. A 3 percent raise would absorb nearly two-thirds of that amount, with the remainder going to staffing new schools and growth, and paying increased insurance and retirement fund costs.
"Obviously, I want to give the teachers as much as we possibly can," board member Alison Crumbley said. "I want everybody to get their appropriate raises."
District negotiators have looked to begin contract talks early this spring, with a goal of completing talks before the current school year ends. United School Employees of Pasco president Kenny Blankenship said he was not sure early bargaining is in everyone's interest, observing that many teachers on the team are busy teaching and testing their students.
He did favor any discussion of putting more money into employee pockets, though.
"If they want to commit to 3 percent, that would be great, especially in light of the fact that the state funding looks like it is going to be only 1 percent over last year," Blankenship said.
Top district administrators have signaled through emails that they will have to make some tough decisions if the state approves its budget as expected. New programs will be few and far between, they suggested, with poor performing existing programs targeted for reductions or elimination. Stay tuned.