Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning knows it could be a tall order, but he wants to complete not one but two employee contracts before the end of the spring semester: the current year agreement and the 2013-14 deal.
"The budget is going to be front and center," Browning said. "I am sure the union wants step increases restored and raises. ... I am going to work toward that end."
At the same time, he continued, the reality remains that the district is staring at a possible revenue shortfall of $23 million next year, a similar amount as this year.
The 2012-13 contract remains hung up primarily on negotiations over furlough days, as well as final insurance packages. Raises are not part of the equation.
Talks for next year's contract have not yet begun.
"I am hopeful that the days of budget cutting are soon to be over," Browning said.
United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb said she looked forward to positive negotiations with the new district administration. She was not ready to commit to quick and easy bargaining, though.
"A lot depends on what happens with the Legislature," which is set to hold session through May 3, Webb said. "We are not going to wrap up next year's talks without knowing where we are on funding. I don't want to sacrifice quality for expediency."
The USEP also is urging Browning to reconsider the district's position on a class-action teachers' grievance. As one of her final acts before leaving office in November, outgoing superintendent Heather Fiorentino denied the grievance filed by about 1,300 elementary teachers, who complained that their workload had become overly burdensome.
Fiorentino acknowledged teachers must work harder than before, but did not find any of those requirements violated their contract.
Browning said he will take another look at teachers' conditions and the past administration's response to the grievance before making any decisions.