Pasco teachers and employees ratified their contracts for the current school year and put to rest any plans to furlough employees this year. After counting 2,971 teacher and 1,998 school related personnel (SRP) votes, the United School Employees of Pasco announced approval of the most recently negotiated contracts with the District School Board of Pasco County.
Fifty-eight percent of teachers and 60 percent of SRP cast ballots on Thursday, April 4, 2013. The USEP Election Committee counted the ballots Monday evening at the office of the United School Employees of Pasco. Eighty-four percent of the teachers and 89 percent of SRP voted in favor of the tentative agreements.
For a second year, much of the team’s efforts were consumed by negotiating the legislatively-mandated teacher evaluation system. Bargaining over insurance and economics was delayed to allow the newly-elected Superintendent to settle in and review district resources in an effort to avert the two furlough days budgeted by the prior administration.
Facing a $23 million shortfall in July, the school board balanced its budget with two furlough days for all employees despite USEP’s objections. Last year, when the District faced a $53 million shortfall, USEP agreed early on to implement two furlough days to minimize the financial impact on employees. Then, at the end of the year, USEP identified enough savings to require the District to reimburse one of those days. This year, USEP felt the District could have implemented more cost-savings and would not agree to any furloughs.
As part of the agreement, USEP was able to continue to maintain at least one fully board-paid employee health plan, continue operations of District Health and Wellness Centers, maintain post-retirement benefits, and avert secondary teachers from teaching 6 out of 6 periods.
With the economic forecast looking up, both sides expressed optimism that next year will break the cycle of salary stagnation.
“The ratification results show a willingness to move forward,” USEP President Lynne Webb stated. “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.”
The agreements must be ratified by the school board, which is scheduled to meet on April 16th.
Both sides expect to be back at the bargaining table before the year is over to begin work on the agreement for the 2013-2014 school year.
“It would be nice,” Webb stated, “to go back to having a settlement before school begins next year!”