Pasco school employees won’t get raises in new contracts
LAND O’ LAKES - With just two months left in the school year, Pasco County school employees have overwhelmingly voted to ratify proposed contracts with the school board, United School Employees of Pasco announced. Before the contracts become official, though, they must be approved by the school board, which meets Tuesday. The contracts, which cover the current academic year, don’t include raises, nor do they include two unpaid furlough days that the school district originally proposed in a budget-trimming effort. Teachers and other school employees, such as bus drivers and custodians, voted on the contracts April 4 and union officials counted the results Tuesday evening.The union reported that 84 percent of the teachers who cast ballots and 89 percent of school-related personnel voted in favor of the contracts. Not everyone eligible voted, though. The union reported that 58 percent of teachers and 60 percent of school-related personnel participated. Even with the big margins of approval, Lynne Webb, president of United School Employees, doesn’t view the ratification as a ringing endorsement of the contract settlement. “The ratification results show a willingness to move forward,” Webb said in a prepared statement. “I cannot in good conscience read any more into it than that. Let’s hope the Legislature does its part so that we can do our part at the bargaining table.” Both district and union officials previously said they hope money will be available for raises in the 2013-14 contracts. Those contract negotiations are expected to begin soon. The last time school employees received a raise was 2007. Contracts used to be settled by the time teachers reported to work in August. In recent years, though, negotiations have lasted for months, with the result that the school year is nearly over by the time a contract is ratified. “It would be nice to go back to having a settlement before school begins next year,” Webb said. Some of the delay this year was caused by negotiations over state-mandated teacher evaluations.