Salaries, the district's complaint procedure and transfer policy were the hot topics Tuesday when teachers and administrators met for the first round of talks on next year's teachers contract.
This is the third year of the Citrus teachers' three-year contract, so the entire document is open for discussion. In negotiations, the district's 964 teachers are represented by the Citrus County Education Association.
Little could be said about the pay raise issue, which usually dominates contract talks, because the district had not completed its annual financial report.
That document, which is supposed to be finished by Thursday, will tell everyone the district's fiscal bottom line.
Earlier this summer, Walter Pierce, executive director of business services, reported to the School Board that there was $833,000 available for a variety of projects, including pay raises for teachers.
Before that, Superintendent Pete Kelly said there would be no money for raises.
During Tuesday's session, Pierce said he did not know how much was still available. "As every day went on since then, things have changed," he said.
Union president Pam Pate told Pierce, "You've already said that every day we wait is dripping out of" what is available.
Pierce said he was confident that the district's financial picture had brightened since last year's $3-million budget shortfall, but he also noted that other expenses will be coming out of whatever is left over.
Last year, with the shortfall, "We had to cut a lot of things other than raises to balance," Pierce said. Also cut was about $300,000 in money to the individual schools. If that money is returned to the schools, it would have to come out of the same pot of extra dollars as raises.
Members of the teachers team questioned when financial details will be available.
Pierce said the teams should be able to start talking money by the end of the session they have scheduled for Thursday. The teams also will meet again today for another full-day session, and the School Board is slated for a closed executive session to discuss negotiations later this afternoon.
On Tuesday the teams had just begun to discuss possible changes in contract language on a variety of issues, including the teacher evaluation process, the way the district handles complaints against teachers, the rules for vacancies, promotions and postings, how health insurance works for teachers who leave the district and whether the district should begin planning for another early retirement program several years from now.