Pasco County’s school-related employees, such as classroom assistants and school bus drivers, reached a tentative contract agreement late Monday with the school district that would give everyone a 3.25 percent raise, with some categories of workers getting even bigger bumps.
The sides reached their deal after passing four separate proposals back and forth, each with a slight change from the one before.
“We accomplished what we needed to accomplish,” said Jim Ciadella, United School Employees of Pasco chief operating officer and lead negotiator. “We feel good about that. ... We have a fair contract.”
USEP negotiators kicked off the discussions with their response to the district’s final offer from the prior week. The USEP asked for 3.75 percent raises, still higher than the district’s proposed 3 percent but slightly below the union’s earlier request for 4 percent.
The union also continued to ask for some items that the district had turned down, including increased mileage reimbursements and a service incentive for long-term employees.
The district responded by sticking to its 3 percent offer, but also increasing its proposed added pay rates for several classes of employees, including instructional assistants, data entry operators, licensed professional nurses, occupational therapist assistants and physical therapy assistants. Those workers would be moved up a level in their job classification, and get more pay as a result.
The USEP again asked for 3.75 percent, along with the other benefits. The district came back one final time with a bump to its general raise, to 3.25 percent, while also maintaining the reclassifications of all the groups it had mentioned.
“Obviously, if we had enough money we would try to bring everyone up an additional amount,” assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley said. With what the district has available, he explained, “we are able to target some of the salary categories with some of the lower paid employees.”
In addition, the agreement would increase the district’s contribution to health benefits by $235.65 per employee, maintaining its fully paid program.
“You can’t minimize that,” Ciadella said.
It did not include the longevity incentive or the mileage reimbursement increase.
The entire salary package totals about $2.6 million. See the best and final offer here.
With this deal now set for a ratification vote — it could go to the School Board as early as January — the sides will turn their attention to the more contentious teacher contract.
Representatives for the teachers and the district have met only twice since August — once for the district to introduce its disliked plan to boost salaries by having certain teachers work more classes, and once more for the USEP to reject that idea.
USEP officials have said they are investigating alternatives to the district proposal, so they can take advantage of more money that was put on the table if at all possible.
Shibley said the district expects to offer a similar deal of around 3.25 percent to the teachers. But it also wants to look at other ways to get the $15 million onto the table that the alternate schedule would provide.
Otherwise, Shibley noted, neighboring districts will continue to give raises similar to Pasco’s, and the district remains unchanged competitively.
“Relying on state funds is not going to get us there,” he said. “The district is still interested in looking at some funding models to allow us to gain some ground.”
This sides have not yet scheduled their next instructional bargaining session. USEP president Don Peace said he did not expect to resume talks until after the Thanksgiving break.