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Hillsborough teacher furloughs and pay increase postponed in tentative contract accord

TAMPA — Teacher furloughs won't happen this fall in Hillsborough County, but neither will pay increases.

Under a tentative contract agreement reached Thursday, negotiators said they would postpone talk of both the two or three days' unpaid leave the district had sought, and the 2 percent salary scale increase the teachers' union wanted.

"We agreed not to do furlough days for now," said Jean Clements, president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers' Association union.

The settlement, which must still be approved by the School Board and ratified by union members, marked a rapid closing of the gulf that had separated the two sides in recent contract talks.

While the union had pointed to what it saw as a sizable unreserved fund balance of $338 million last year in the district's $1.5 billion operating budget, district officials said the bulk of that money was spoken for, and insisted they were facing a shortfall of more than $10 million.

Deputy superintendent Dan Valdez said the district would not pursue furloughs until the budget picture, including enrollment, tax revenues and state funding, is clear.

"The agreement is that the furloughs will be held off until second semester," he said. "We won't sit down (to discuss) them unless they're necessary. And if there is a windfall, an increase of money, then we could sit with them and decide how to use it."

Union officials now say they're convinced that the district is not awash in extra money, and might face hard times if the state holds back funding this fall.

"I think everyone understands there will not be an across the board raise this year," Clements said. "That's just not in the cards."

Negotiators also agreed to cancel school during the high-absence Thanksgiving week to save money and reinstate two planned holidays on Oct. 30 and Feb. 15 as regular school days.

Teachers did not get the weekly early release day they sought for planning. But the district agreed to dismiss students two hours early on five more days, along with the monthly release days now in the contract.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

Hillsborough teacher furloughs and pay increase postponed in tentative contract accord 07/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 9, 2009 10:52pm]
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