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Contract includes 2 percent raises

Pasco school union officials and district negotiators have reached tentative contract agreements.

The district's nearly 4,000 employees are expected to vote on the proposed contract at the end of the month. The proposal could be on the School Board's agenda at the Nov. 3 meeting.

The United School Employees of Pasco negotiates separate contracts for the district's instructional and non-instructional employees.

Under terms of the proposed contracts, both types of employees will continue receiving seniority-based "step" increases, averaging 2 percent.

In addition, the district is making available $350,000 for raises for the 2,400 instructional employees and $100,000 for the 1,600 non-instructional workers. The union will decide how to divide the money among employees.

The district also will pay for the full employee benefits package, including dental, health and life insurance premiums that this year cost $2,744 per person.

Union officials said they are fairly pleased with the proposal. Early in negotiations, district representatives said no money was available for raises, but union officials disagreed.

The district also had proposed putting a cap on how much it would pay for benefits.

Lauvanne Miller, USEP business representative for the district's non-instructional workers, said the union recognizes that "there is a budget shortfall in many counties in the state" and that school workers elsewhere are not receiving raises.

Liz Geiger had been the USEP business representative for instructional workers, but on Friday night she was elected union president. She said the proposed contract includes language USEP negotiators sought concerning discipline and other issues.

The proposal says teachers shall have the right to send students to the principal when there has been a serious classroom disturbance. After a student has been referred to the office, the principal is responsible for handling the matter, under the agreement.

Discipline issues arose as a contract topic, and Geiger noted that such matters increasingly take up teachers' time and are of grave concern.

The additional $450,000 made available for raises will come from several sources, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Chuck Rushe.

The rainy day fund, which includes about $2.3-million set aside for emergencies and catastrophies, will be reduced by $200,000, with $100,000 pulled from the district miscellaneous fund and $150,000 saved through attrition, because the district has not filled some vacant positions.

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