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Pasco school-related workers could see raises approved before break

Teachers have yet to reach a deal on their contract.

Hoping to get raises into paychecks early in 2020, the Pasco County school district and United School Employees of Pasco plan to have school-related workers vote on their new contract offer before leaving for winter holidays.

Under the fairly tight time frame, which was set this week, the School Board and eligible district staff would each vote on the terms on Dec. 17. The USEP ballots would be counted two days later. The semester ends a day after that.

Ratification requires both groups to support the negotiated deal.

If approved, the district intends to quickly begin processing the payroll changes so the workers could get their added wages — including back pay to the start of the school year — as soon as possible.

The sides reached a tentative agreement on Nov. 18. It included pay increases of 3.25 percent for all the staff, which includes secretaries, classroom aides and bus drivers, and more beyond that for some of the lowest-paid job categories.

The proposal also maintains district-paid health insurance for employees, though not for their families. It does not provide some of the items the USEP requested, such as higher mileage reimbursement rates or a longevity bonus for veteran workers.

Neither does it include a disliked district proposal to require some teachers to instruct more classes daily in exchange for larger raises for all.

Union officials deemed the deal “fair” after completing the talks.

Related: <b>RELATED: </b> Pasco school-related workers would get 3.25 percent raises in contract deal

Negotiators for teacher contracts have not yet found a middle ground acceptable to both sides. They return to the table Dec. 10 to see if they can make progress toward settlement, as well.

When they last met in October, the USEP teachers bargaining team presented a counter-proposal to the district’s offer of raises around 8 percent, which also would have middle and high school teachers teach an extra daily course period. That schedule change would allow the district to eliminate about 250 teaching jobs, freeing the money needed for the larger pay hikes.

Teachers joined the SRP in rejecting that concept, saying they did not want some people to benefit financially on the shoulders of others. They contended it’s not a raise if you are required to do more work for the money — it’s just being compensated for the extra work.

The district removed the provision from its SRP contract, and is expected to do the same for the teachers. Everyone says they still want to find extra revenue to give teachers more than just the 3 to 4 percent increases that most neighboring systems also provide, so Pasco can better compete for top educators and fill its vacancies.

Where that funding can come from, if anywhere, remains to be presented.