Pasco school district formally introduces 2-year pay plan

The proposal is short on details, with officials saying they want to work through specifics during negotiations.
Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019.
Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. [ JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times Staff Writer ]
Published Sept. 19, 2019|Updated Sept. 19, 2019

Representatives for the Pasco County school district on Wednesday officially proposed a two-year plan aimed at boosting employee paychecks by at least 8 percent over two years, after having talked about the idea for several weeks.

The proposal, which has generated plenty of displeasure among teachers, was perhaps most notable for what it didn’t contain — several details to spell out exactly how the anticipated $15.6 million in additional salary would be distributed among the instructional and school support staff. That money would be generated by having middle and high school teachers instruct one added period daily, allowing for the reduction of about 250 positions.

“This is just a two-year plan and what we can do with funds through attrition,” said Nora Light, the district’s lead negotiator for teacher contracts. “We are relying on negotiations and discussions going forth to determine what it will look like.”

See the district’s SRP economic proposal for more details.

Because the documents were scant on specifics, Jim Ciadella, the USEP’s operations director and lead negotiator for school-related personnel, hesitated to offer any response.

“There is money on the table, but at a real cost,” Ciadella said. “We will discuss it.”

The cost he referred to was the portion of the plan that would have about 1,600 secondary teachers instruct a sixth period and about 30 more students, in order to make the added funds available.

“The money is being realized through additional work for a specific group of employees. That’s the fact,” said Lynn Cavall, USEP’s teacher contract negotiator. “That is what we are struggling with.”

The union has expressed disapproval with the proposal, saying its membership did not like the divide and conquer approach. It did not reject the plan out of hand, though.

District negotiators said they hoped the union representatives would help work through the idea so they can arrive at a viable way to get more money into employee pockets than the percentage provided through increased state funding. The School Board included 3 percent raises in its 2019-20 budget, based on the state appropriations.

“The district wants to create an idea that has a lasting effect,” Light said. “At this moment, all we have is a concept.”

“There’s not a lot in here, and that’s very purposeful,” added Tom Neesham, the district’s negotiator for school-related personnel contracts. “The hope is we’ll fill it in through negotiations.”

The proposal also includes district funding of added health insurance costs and required contributions to the Florida Retirement System. Neesham and Light said the district wants to avoid diminishing employee pay in any way, as they work toward making salaries more competitive.

The USEP bargaining teams held a meeting after the bargaining session ended Wednesday, to begin considering next steps. The sides have not scheduled their next round of talks.

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