Representatives for Pasco County teachers and the school district return to the bargaining table Wednesday, with little anticipation of reaching a contract deal before winter break begins two days later.
The sides hit a philosophical wall a week ago over performance evaluations, while also disagreeing on several other items relating to pay. United School Employees of Pasco officials have hinted broadly that they expect to declare the talks at an impasse, bringing an outside arbitrator in to help resolve the breach.
Bargaining over terms for school-related personnel, which had appeared on track for conclusion, has not even been scheduled for another round after the USEP rejected the district's "best and final" pay offer of 2 percent raises plus added increases for some of the lowest paid employees.
Sensing that the contracts might not be completed for weeks or even months, the district administration has set plans in motion to get pay hikes to the more than 1,100 staff members who are not subject to collective bargaining.
Assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley has told School Board members that his team is preparing an agenda item for the board to consider in January. It would allow the administrative, professional, technical and non-instructional employees in that group to get the 2 percent raises plus 0.59 percent for increased retirement contributions offered to the bargaining units, but before the contracts are settled.
The district historically waited for all negotiations to end before distributing extra pay to the non-bargaining workers. But in recent years, as talks have dragged on, the administration and board occasionally have chosen not to make those employees wait.
"These non-represented employees have been waiting patiently, and without any other demands, for their salary adjustments as negotiations with USEP have stretched out for more than 6 months," Shibley told the board in a recent email.
The raises for these staff would total about $1.5 million. The district has offered about $6.3 million for added teacher salaries and retirement contributions, and about $2.1 million more for school-related personnel.