Pinellas teachers OK bargaining agreement, new starting salary
Pinellas County teachers and support staff have voted to ratify their union contracts with the school district for the 2017-18 school year, sending pay raises and a higher starting salary for teachers before the Pinellas County School Board for approval.
The tentative agreement bargained by the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association includes a 2.65 percent raise, and, with a bump in funding raised from a local referendum, starts teachers with a minimum salary of $43,000. The Pinellas Educational Support Professionals Association negotiated a 3.25 percent raise for its staff.
"It’s basically a big plus for people still starting out," said PCTA president Mike Gandolfo. "It’s good for the profession to have a decent starting pay."
Turnout for the vote, held Tuesday, was the lowest in recent years. Of the 7,400 teachers represented by PCTA, just 2,510 cast ballots, far behind a turnout of 3,228 in 2016 and 5,427 in 2015. This year, 88 percent voted in favor of the agreement.
Less than half of the 2,600 support staff represented by PESPA participated in the vote, though that bargaining unit was overwhelmingly in favor of its contract. Officials tallied 1,223 votes, 98 percent of which were in approval.
Gandolfo called this year's negotiations with the school district "collaborative and respectful."
"It’s definitely not like it used to be like in the good old days," he joked.
The school district has agreed to cover $4.8 million of the $6.4 million increase in healthcare costs. Employees should expect to pay $5 to $13 more a paycheck, depending on their insurance plan. Those costs could be offset by an extra $177 raised by the referendum due to a rise in property values.
PCTA in its agreement also bargained for a flexible workweek for Pinellas Virtual School teachers and laid out framework for what teachers should expect should their school grade fall into turnaround status. See the proposed pay scale here, which includes bonuses for developing teachers.
The district also negotiated a 2.65 percent salary increase for administrators and a 3.25 percent raise for staff professionals who are not represented by a bargaining group.
The Pinellas County School Board will vote whether to approve the contracts at its board meeting Tuesday.
Unions around Tampa Bay are still bargaining with their respective school districts. Negotiations are stalled in Hillsborough, where the last offer from the district did not include credit for the last year's service for pay purposes, shutting one-third of teachers out of a scheduled $4,000 yearly raise.
The two sides were roughly $50 million apart on that and other pay issues. The district has not ruled out the possibility of raises, but said it does not yet have enough financial information to make that commitment.
The United School Employees of Pasco and Pasco school district officials there hope to agree to a contract by the end of the month. That school board last month approved a $1.19 billion budget that included $3.3 million for pay raises subject to contract negotiations.
Hernando County officials are still meeting at the bargaining table.
Times staff writer Marlene Sokol contributed to this report.