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New school plan saves less money

The personnel restructuring plan for the Hillsborough County schoolsapparently will not save the district $1.14-million as originally planned.

The revised restructuring plan that will be presented to the Hillsborough School Board on Tuesday instead is expected to save about $776,000. Much of the savings comes from eliminating some jobs, assigning more responsibilities to some jobs and farming out some work now done by school employees to private companies.

There are other significant changes in the plan. Two of the most significant promotions and salary increases have been refigured. Assistant superintendent Pete Davidsen's promotion will result in a larger salary increase than was described in the original plan. Davidsen will become deputy superintendent and be paid about $8,332 more, including fringe benefits. Davidsen will continue to do his old job, so the district will save money by not filling his position.

Public information specialist Donna Reed's promotion will not result in a $13,000 raise, as described in the original restructuring plan. Instead, Reed's new position as supervisor of community/media relations will give her a raise of $2,719 including fringe benefits.

"That's not because I don't think she deserves it; that lady has become indispensable," Superintendent Walter Sickles said of Reed's raise. But the superintendent said the previous proposal was not consistent with district policy, which prohibits an employee from jumping more than a couple of pay grades at a time.

Much like the first version of the restructuring plan, portions of the revised version are coming under fire from the employees' unions.

"I like the cost-saving aspect of it," said Terry Wilson, executive director for the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. "The major point that I have trouble with is the timing. The timing is atrocious."

Wilson said the proposal, with several promotions and salary increases built in, "gives the wrong impression that the downtown administration is taken care of first."

When Sickles first announced the restructuring plan, he said that in the coming year's budget he hoped to improve salaries for all employees. But most of those increases will have to be worked out in the bargaining process with the employees' unions.

Wilson said he hopes the bargaining process can be wrapped up as early as mid-July. That would be a big change; negotiations this year dragged out for about 11 months. He said that if the superintendent holds off on promotions and raises, it might provide some incentive to resolve negotiations earlier.

The union that represents the district's non-instructional employees _ such as bus drivers and school food service workers _ also has taken issue with some parts of the plan. When the plan was announced, officials with the Hillsborough School Employees Federation issued a statement criticizing the part that calls for private companies to do work that had been done by district employees.

Union officials argued such a move would not save the district more than $218,000 as Sickles anticipated, but would actually cost money in the long run.

In a letter to School Board members this week, Sickles wrote: "The restructuring plan is not written in concrete. It will be evaluated during the 1993-94 school year and a report will be presented to the Board. If parts of the plan are not working, we will recommend changes."