Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas County School District clashes with unions over health insurance

The clock is ticking.

School superintendent John Stewart told the Pinellas County School Board on Monday that it has less than two months to get four unions to agree to a dramatic change in health insurance or look elsewhere for budget cuts. So far, it doesn't look good.

"Based on what I've heard there's been very little progress made on either side," Stewart said.

Tensions were evident during Monday's workshop meeting. Ron Ciranna, assistant superintendent of human resources, said salary negotiations were about six months behind schedule. He said he'd been trying, without success, to meet with the teachers union for two weeks.

"That's not true," Kim Black, president of the teachers union, said from the audience.

Black said the unions received the insurance proposal three to four weeks ago and haven't had their questions answered. Representatives from all four bargaining groups said it was clear that the board hadn't heard the unions' counterproposal. "They are backing board members into a corner," Black said.

The proposed health insurance plan, presented to the School Board just last week, would dramatically increase out-of-pocket costs for employees. It has a $2,500 individual deductible and a $5,000 family deductible, while the current plan has no deductible at all.

The change could save the district about $20 million, some of which could be used for employee salaries and to fill budget holes.

Kevin Smith, assistant superintendent of budget and resource allocation, said Monday that the district faces a possible $14 million deficit, far higher than the $5 million hole discussed as recently as last week. Smith said projections for the shortfall in the $1.3 billion budget have been "tracking higher" since March and April.

Stewart said an agreement is needed by the July 24 board meeting.

If the unions don't agree to the insurance change, the district will need to look at other options, Stewart said. Board members also could impose the proposed insurance plan on employees if the two sides eventually declare an impasse in negotiations.

Some board members said Monday that they didn't have enough information.

"We can't do it based on what if. We need some numbers," said board member Peggy O'Shea.

There's not much time.

Ted Pafundi, director of risk management and insurance, said he needs to negotiate with multiple insurance companies for the best plan. The contract is estimated at $100 million. Last year, open enrollment was held during August and September.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected].

Comments
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Associated PressFlorida’s busiest airport is becoming the first in the nation to require a face scan of passengers on all arriving and departing international flights, including U.S. citizens, according to officials there. The expected announcement T...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Column: We can still save wild Florida, but time for panthers, black bears and us is running out

Column: We can still save wild Florida, but time for panthers, black bears and us is running out

When we dipped our paddles into Florida Bay at the mangrove fringe of Everglades National Park and took the first strokes of the 2012 Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, I’m not sure I fully understood the scope of the challenge we were facing. Six...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

The Lightning doesn't have a first-round pick in this weekend's NHL draft, but that's not to say it couldn't be a busy weekend for Steve Yzerman and his front office.The Lightning sent its top draft pick to the Rangers in February as part of a packag...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The all-time NBA draft — the best pick from every slot

The all-time NBA draft — the best pick from every slot

There’s a definitive answer every year to the question of who is No. 1 in the NBA draft. But who is the No. 1 pick of all No. 1 draft picks ever? Or No. 1 among the list of No. 2 draft picks? Those are questions that have no definitive answer, except...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Updated: 2 hours ago
Plant City’s champion Al Berry, whose name shouted his passion, dead at 83

Plant City’s champion Al Berry, whose name shouted his passion, dead at 83

His name was Berry and berry was his passion — the strawberry that put his beloved Plant City on the map.Alfred "Al" Berry was born with the name, but he took on his role as chief promoter of Plant City through his four decades of work with the commu...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Column: How the U.S. cornered the market for skilled immigrants

Column: How the U.S. cornered the market for skilled immigrants

Countries are constantly competing for the most talented workers and, according to the best available immigration statistics, the United States has been winning.The United States is home to just 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but in 2010, it ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
For once, scientists found good news about West Antarctica

For once, scientists found good news about West Antarctica

At least since 2014, the news has been dire: The West Antarctic ice sheet is losing ice, and its retreat may be unstoppable. It may be only a matter of time (granted, maybe a very long time) before it adds as much as 10 feet to global sea-level rise....
Updated: 3 hours ago
Deputies: Zephyrhills bank robbed, suspect flees on bicycle

Deputies: Zephyrhills bank robbed, suspect flees on bicycle

A Suntrust Bank in Zephyrhills was robbed early Thursday afternoon, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.At about 12:50 p.m., deputies said, the man walked into the bank at 34511 State Road 54 and presented a note demanding money, though he...
Updated: 3 hours ago