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Pasco union makes pay counter-offer for school-related workers

As expected, the union rejected the district’s plan to add work for middle and high school teachers in exchange for more money.

Representatives of Pasco County’s school-related employees, such as bus drivers and classroom aides, have asked the School Board for higher raises than the amount the district offered a month ago.

And they want the improvements to come without any added work for middle and high school teachers — a piece of the district’s plan that board officials deemed critical to any attempt to boost pay by more than 3 percent. United School Employees of Pasco leaders have made clear over several weeks that the idea of burdening one group of workers so another group could benefit was a non-starter.

Related: <b>RELATED: </b> Pasco teachers union rejects school district’s pay plan

During talks Wednesday, the USEP asked for 4 percent raises across the board for every eligible school-related employee. It also called on the district to make any agreed upon increase retroactive to the start of the school year, something that traditionally has been done, but this year the district eliminated that provision from its proposal.

In addition, the union requested giving instructional assistants an added 25 cents per hour beyond the 4 percent, as well as senior bus drivers with 14 or more years experience an added 50 cents per hour and occupational and physical therapy assistants an added $1 per hour. It further proposed boosting the district’s paid mileage reimbursement for work-related travel to 50 cents per mile, up from 38 cents per mile.

The district last increased the mileage reimbursement in 2005.

In a step that USEP chief operating officer Jim Ciadella called “something kind of interesting,” the group proposed a $250 bonus for every employee who has worked for the district 10 years or longer, “to recognize their commitment to this district through good times and bad.”

Ciadella noted that those veteran employees endured a six-year period where they got no raises at all.

“We think there’s a way to do this,” Ciadella said.

Tom Neesham, the district’s lead negotiator for school-related employee contracts, wasn’t so sure.

Neesham noted that the USEP proposal totaled nearly $3.8 million, or 5.1 percent, in added money. He suggested it’s not an amount the district has without adjusting the secondary teachers’ schedule in the way the union has rejected.

“Everything Jim put on the table I would have been able to sign off on, if Jim had not struck that part of the proposal,” Neesham said. “My disappointment is, by striking the extra period for secondary teachers, what you’re really doing is handcuffing me.”

Related: <b>RELATED: </b> Pasco school district formally introduces 2-year pay plan

He expressed hope that when the teachers’ bargaining team returns to the table on Oct. 24, it will bring some alternative ideas to help the district get to the 8-10 percent raises in the administration’s plan.

“Obviously, we have a ways to go to find a happy medium,” Neesham said.

See the USEP’s economic counteroffer for more details.