Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Education

Hernando school officials, teachers remain at odds over money for pay increases

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District and teachers union remained at odds this week about how best to distribute roughly $3.8 million in raise money from the state — even as more districts across the state are reaching agreements of their own.

On Wednesday afternoon, the district offered up four options. The Hernando Classroom Teachers Association quickly rejected all but one.

That option would give the money from the governor to the teachers on top of their normal step raises.

The total payout: $5.5 million, amounting to roughly a 6.5 percent increase. Teachers would receive an average of $1,638 in addition to their step increases, with the amount ranging from $1,000 to $2,100.

There's one big caveat, however: Teachers would have to give up automatic step raises in future years.

The union's negotiators said that measure was not likely to fly with the membership.

"We would not be agreeable to the deletion of automatic steps," said John Imhof, a member of the bargaining team.

Union president Jo Ann Hartge put it another way: "It's about the only thing that people have left."

While the union said eliminating the automatic step increases isn't an option, they were open to tweaking the language.

"I think we need to look at that language — not to give it up, but still to make it negotiable every year," Hartge said. "I think there can be some movement, but there needs to be a lot of trust."

The district's proposal would remove automatic steps for 2014-15 and also create a new salary schedule.

Heather Martin, the district's executive director of business services, reiterated the district's concerns about adding so much money to the district's salary schedule.

"For any of this money that we put in, we're committing to the future here," Martin said. "So we can't just look at this year. It's not fiscally responsible to do that. Whatever we put in the salary schedule, we're committing to future years whether or not it's funded by the governor."

Earlier this month, the teachers union proposed a 4 percent raise on top of steps — an amount they said would amount to roughly $1,800 for the district's 1,655 teachers.

In August, the teachers union proposed a 5 percent across-the-board raise in addition to roughly $1.9 million for step increases. The district countered with one that would amount to a 4 percent raise, including steps. The teachers union didn't like that offer.

So far, 37 Florida districts have approved teacher raises approved during the 2013 legislative session. Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Citrus counties have all reached agreements.

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