LAND O'LAKES — Thanks, but no.
That's the United School Employees of Pasco's response to the School Board's suggestion that everyone take an unpaid day off on June 11 to save a couple of million dollars. The board said the money saved could have helped offset expected increases in health benefit costs that otherwise could be charged to the staff.
USEP president Lynne Webb rejected the idea Tuesday after surveying her membership last week.
Of 3,784 responses, 56 percent said they would consider accepting a furlough if the union leadership could negotiate it successfully.
"It was very obvious to me that even the people who responded 'yes' had severe reservations," Webb told the School Board.
She recited some of the comments submitted, such as teachers who said they had no guarantee the money would be used as promised, and those who said they were already behind in mortgage payments and could not afford to lose a day of pay.
With that feedback, Webb said, "I don't consider that overwhelming approval. It might get somebody elected, but when it comes to a contract we would not consider that a successful ratification."
Superintendent Heather Fiorentino called the USEP's response disappointing.
The district needs to reduce general operation spending by about $28 million, Fiorentino said, and that's only if the board increases local property taxes and the state does not make any additional budget cuts. Talk in Tallahassee has swirled that more cuts might be coming.
"The question is, how much will the midyear cuts be?" Fiorentino said, expecting the financial picture to worsen.
School Board members said they had hoped a one-day furlough might mitigate the pain teachers and other employees could feel next year.
"I think it was prudent on the board's part to ask Lynne to do that," vice chairwoman Joanne Hurley said of the survey. "Now we've got to go back and look at our budget. We've got to find that money somewhere else."
The idea of charging employees $30 a month for benefits looks to be back on the table.
"We were just trying to lighten that a little bit," board member Frank Parker said. "We're back where we started."
Other possibilities will continue to emerge as the board works toward balancing its budget for the coming year.
"I will continue to try to find other avenues," Hurley said.
In other business Tuesday, the School Board:
• Named Kevin Shibley the new director of employee relations. He will replace Terry Rhum, who is retiring.
• Approved teacher assignments for 2010-11, with the caveat that changes might come because of budgetary needs.
• Gave initial approval to the student code of conduct and the pupil progression plan for 2010-11. A second and final reading is still required.
• Authorized an architectural design agreement for the redesign of Richey Elementary School and a construction management agreement for the reconstruction of Pasco Middle School.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614.