School district, union agree to 3% raise

Teachers will get a 3 percent pay raise after Pasco County Schools and the United School Employees of Pasco union reached an agreement on new contracts.

For teachers, the cost to give pay raises will be $6.4 million, according to a release from the school district. Half of that raise will address cost-of-living expenses, while the other half will be for performance pay or equivalent agreements. Also seeing a 3 percent raise are school-related personnel, which will cost the district an additional $1.7 million.

“I want to thank the district’s negotiating team, led by Betsy Kuhn and Tom Neesham, for diligently representing the wishes of the school board, and negotiating meaningful raises for all of our hard-working employees,” Superintendent Kurt Browning said, in a release.

The raise, however, will come at a price. First, the district’s early retirement program will stop adding new members effective June 30, 2018. On top of that, smoking will be banned on all district property effective July 1, 2016.

In return, teachers also will get 150 minutes of uninterrupted planning time — or 2.5 hours — up from the 100 minutes they are currently provided by contract. The district also will increase its contribution to the Florida Retirement System by $1.4 million for all employees, and pay out another $1.2 million for increases to employee health insurance for the 2015 calendar year.

Both sides have agreed to create a compensation task force that will talk about proposed changes to how teachers are paid. The options being considered are teachers receiving 20 paychecks during the 10-month teacher work year, with five checks paid on the last teacher work day, and a last check two weeks later; or teachers receiving 26 equal paychecks, paid out every two weeks year round.

“Although this is one of the best pay settlements in the state, I wish we could have settled sooner,” union president Kenny Blankenship said, in a statement. “But due to the many issues that were brought up by the district, USEP needed to take the time to properly vet the language and process to ensure the contractual rights of all employees were protected.”

The district is paying out an additional $12 million toward employee compensation and benefits for the 2014-15 school year, officials said. The contract will take effect once it’s ratified by the school board during its Jan. 20 meeting, and after union employees vote to ratify it as well on Jan. 14.

If the contract passes both sides, then salary increases and retroactive pay will be reflected in paychecks by the end of February.

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