BROOKSVILLE — With a slightly more robust budget than projected, Hernando County School Board members voted 5-0 to approve nearly $200,000 in raises for the 268 district employees not represented by unions.
The Tuesday night vote brings the employees, ranging from cafeteria workers to high-level district staffers, in line this year with the increases built into contracts with union employees. The raises — averaging several hundred dollars a year for each employee — are retroactive to July 2.
"I think that's a very courageous situation," superintendent Bryan Blavatt said after three separate votes to approve the increases. "I think it's a real tribute to the board that you guys recognize that we're cutting it close and that we have the ability."
The final 2012-13 budget, approved Tuesday, includes roughly $5.5 million in reserves, about 3.82 percent of the general fund revenues. The pay increases were already factored into the budget.
Blavatt applauded the board's efforts to equalize pay increases for union and non-union employees.
"The bottom line is that, for us, for all of us, we really want to do what we can for our employees," he said. "When we have the opportunity to do it, we're going to do it. In this case, based on what we're seeing in the budget, we're going to have that capability. I think it's fair."
Board member Matt Foreman, who said he often does not support discretionary raises, voiced his qualms with the step increases — based on years of service — but decided to back them anyway.
"People feel underappreciated, and a lot of folks are, quite frankly, scared for their jobs," he said. "I recognize the value that our employees bring."
"We did have the money to provide this," he added.
With that said, he ended discussion about the raises with a big caveat.
"It's not something folks should be relying on to happen every year because county government does not have the revenue sources that it used to," Foreman said.
None of the other School Board members spoke about the raises.
Before the vote, Frances Thomas, an assistant manager of food and nutrition services at Chocachatti Elementary School, read a letter to the board on behalf of food and nutrition employees.
"As management in the school cafeteria, we have not received a raise in the past three years," Thomas read. "Beginning last year, 3 percent began being taken out of our paychecks each period for Florida retirement. In addition, two paid days have been taken away. … Additionally, there are instances where non-instructional employees make more money than management. As a result, there is no incentive for these people to apply for the management positions."
In January, the School Board voted against a half-step increase for the non-union employees. It created a disparity among the district's roughly 2,900 full-time employees.
The roughly 1,680 members of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association got a half-step increase last school year. Roughly 1,100 non-instructional employees represented by the Hernando United School Workers got a full-step increase.
The three categories of non-union employees include confidential employees, administrative employees and those considered professional, technical and supervisory.
Confidential employees, including secretaries and bookkeepers, will receive an average raise of $579 this year. Administrative employees will see about $744 in additional money. Professional, technical and supervisory employees will each receive about $807.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432.