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Pinellas School Board approves raises for all employees

The district is in a better situation than most because of revenue from its local-option property tax.
Pinellas County teachers Annette Wylie, Debby Farias and Stephanie Horneman rallied in Tallahassee in January for improved financial support of public education. Teachers and other Pinellas school district employees will get raises of over 3 percent after a vote Tuesday by the School Board.
Pinellas County teachers Annette Wylie, Debby Farias and Stephanie Horneman rallied in Tallahassee in January for improved financial support of public education. Teachers and other Pinellas school district employees will get raises of over 3 percent after a vote Tuesday by the School Board. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Oct. 27, 2020
Updated Oct. 27, 2020

Pinellas County school district employees will see their paychecks grow in November after the School Board approved raises across the board Tuesday evening.

All teachers will get raises of at least 3.45 percent, while all other staff will receive 3.25 percent more. Retroactive pay will arrive for most employees on Nov. 13, with some a week earlier and others a week later.

“We’re thrilled to be able to provide raises to all of our valuable employees,” board chairwoman Carol Cook said after unanimous votes authorizing the pay hikes for different collective bargaining groups and for non-bargaining staff.

Board member Nicole Carr praised all involved for working collaboratively to reach accords this early in the year. All employee groups ratified the negotiated deals with more than 90 percent backing.

The board actions came hours after the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association and Pinellas Educational Support Professionals Association announced their ratification votes.

Related: Pinellas teachers close to deal on pay, evaluations

The vote tallies paved the way for the School Board to consider them.

The deal also covers about 70 percent of the increase in health insurance costs. It is retroactive to the start of the school year.

District officials have made clear that the reason they’re able to provide these raises is because of the voter-approved property tax referendum, which appears on the Nov. 3 ballot for a possible four-year extension. In crafting legislation to boost classroom teacher salaries by $500 million statewide, lawmakers focused their attention on base salary and did not direct funds toward more veteran educators or other school employees.

In Pinellas, the added property tax revenue allowed the district to have enough resources to cover all employees.

“We ended up okay because we have the referendum,” Velardi said. “In so many counties, they were deeply hurt because of this demand” that the money go into the lowest salaries.

Many districts could not approach the $47,500 target set by Gov. Ron DeSantis, much less offer meaningful raises to other staff. In Pasco County, for instance, district budget officials have said they can get the base teacher pay to just over $45,000, and would try to scrape together other funds to provide about 1.4 percent to others.

The Hillsborough County school district agreed to terms boosting its minimum teacher pay to $46,900, with extra money to bump teachers at the top end of the salary scale. The news came on the same day it also announced it would be slashing teaching positions to save $57 million.

Related: With deadlines looming, Florida districts work to boost base teacher pay