Pasco school district still aiming to provide 3 percent raises for all employees
With contract talks over money set to begin as early as next week, the Pasco school district's chief finance officer aimed to temper expectations during a presentation Wednesday.
CFO Olga Swinson told negotiators from both sides that the district's projected $14.97 million revenue increase is due almost entirely to an anticipated 1,673-student rise in enrollment. Added state funding is less than 1 percent, and just barely over the per-student amount the district received in 2007-08.
"We are growing, which is great news for us," she said. "Without that, we would be in trouble."
Even with that increase, Swinson continued, there's not much extra money to spread around. The administration's goal is to provide raises up to 3 percent, she said, which would claim $10.89 million of the cash.
Plans also call for adding 48 new positions, costing about $2.5 million; covering health insurance increases, costing at least $2.15 million; and paying higher retirement benefits, costing about $760,000. Added into other fixed cost increases and spending priorities, the district still faces a deficit of $6.87 million that is must eliminate, Swinson explained.
And that's before the district factors in the expenses associated with adding an hour of daily reading instruction to 11 elementary schools that fell into the state's lowest performing 300. District officials had expected to have only three schools on the list.
One United School Employees of Pasco member asked if the district might dip into its unrestricted reserves, which sit at about 5 percent of the general fund, to cover some of the costs. Swinson cautioned against such a move, saying it would negatively affect the district's bond ratings and debt interest rates.
The district owes more than $500 million on construction projects.
Another USEP representative wondered if the district might have money to give higher raises to employees who worked without raises for the district through the recession. Swinson's response: If so, it would have to come out of somewhere else.
She plans to give the same report to the School Board on Tuesday, before it adopts its annual budget advertisement that will include maximum tax rates. Swinson did not have those numbers available at Wednesday's presentation, but said because of rising property values the tax rates were unlikely to increase.