Pasco County school officials are still searching for ways to provide some sort of raise for district employees — although the prospect did not appear promising at a board meeting last week.
At the board’s July 24 meeting, numerous teachers and other support personnel took turns urging the Pasco School Board to make employee pay a budget priority.
The current budget proposal does not include pay raises for any district employees.
Christine Goddard, a Spanish teacher at Land O’ Lakes High School, urged the board to make salary increases a budget priority.
She loves teaching in the district, she said, but is disappointed that her salary hasn’t improved much in the past couple of years.
“You can’t put your students first, if you continue to put your teachers last, in budget considerations,” Goddard said.
Sue Jenkins, a bus driver who lives in New Port Richey, said she loves her job and the kids she drives, but has to work two jobs.
“I’m too old to work two jobs for very long, so please make us a consideration,” she said.
Cheryl Vinson, of Lutz, noted that Pasco’s pay is not keeping pace with its neighboring counties.
“At my school alone, we have lost seven teachers who have moved to go back to their home states of New York, of Ohio, have gone to other districts because they can’t afford to live in Pasco County anymore. I have numerous friends who work second jobs.”
Beth Vogel, of New Port Richey, who works as registrar for the district, urged board members to take another look at the pay rate for registrars. She said the starting pay for them is $9.25 an hour.
“Our pay does not reflect the work that we do,” Vogel said. Registrars have extensive responsibilities, handling massive amounts of confidential information.
“It’s an endless, endless task. We are not compensated for what we do,” Vogel said.
Don Peace, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, called for the union and school district to work together to seek solutions.
“I implore all of you to be creative and innovative in your thinking this year, as together we seek to provide meaningful salary adjustments for all employees,” Peace said.
“I would also like to ask for the district to consider forming a joint task force with USEP to investigate the possibility of a ballot initiative and to investigate the processes needed to accomplish that task.
“We should be partnering together to message our legislators both here in the district, who obviously have not been working for us, and also in Tallahassee, to implore changes to public school funding, and to educate the public on the need for properly funding public schools and programs,” Peace said.
School board members Colleen Beaudoin and Alison Crumbley responded to the speakers.
“Your pleas are not falling on deaf ears,” Beaudoin said.
“Every board member here, we did set our priorities months ago, and every one of us said that salaries is our priority,” she said.
“We all know that the quality of the people we want to keep is paramount, and it needs to be commensurate to the pay. We want the best people teaching our kids. We know people are leaving. I was heartbroken last week when somebody asked me for a reference to leave the county,” she added.
“I’m sorry you’re in this position, that you are coming here feeling that you have to beg,” she said. “We’re trying. Staff is working on it.”
Crumbley thanked those who came forward to address the board.
“We’re very determined to do what we can and get employee raises,” she said.
“We know this is essential. We know, from the bottom of our hearts. This isn’t over,” she added.
New safety, mental health programs required
It remains unclear how the district would pay for an employee pay raise.
It costs about $4.1 million to provide a 1 percent raise for district employees, said Olga Swinson, the district’s chief finance officer.
The district won’t know its total enrollment until October, at which point it can take another look at the numbers, she said.
There’s a chance enrollment could exceed projections, or that projected enrollment at public charter schools could be lower-than-expected.
In either case, the district revenue picture would improve.
It is true that this year’s student allocation was at its highest rate, but that figure fails to account for inflation, according to Swinson’s budget presentation to the board.
In 2007-2008, the base allocation per student was $7,306. That compares to a base allocation per student of $7,408 for 2018-2019.
When cost-of-living increases are included, however, the allocation per student needs to be $8,528, Swinson said.
Superintendent Kurt Browning also noted that the Florida Legislature tied local districts hands by refusing to allow growth to pay for itself.
The required local effort, which was certified by the state, is 4.031 mills, Swinson said. That’s a reduction from the 4.317 mills that it was last year.
If legislators had allowed local districts to keep the same millage rate for required local effort as they had last year, the district would have $8.2 million more to use to support pay raises, Browning said.
That would essentially equate to a 2 percent pay raise for district employees.
Also, although the Legislature provided more dollars to local districts, they also mandated that most of that new money be spent on school security and mental health services, district officials said.
The school board is scheduled to vote on the tentative tax rate for schools at its July 31 meeting at 6 p.m., after The Laker/Lutz News’ press deadline.
Based on the proposed tax rate, the owner of a $125,000 home, assuming a $25,000 homestead exemption would bay $627.90 in school taxes in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. That compares to $656.50 for 2017-2018, a decrease of $28.60. If the Legislature had allowed districts to levy the same millage rate as they did last year, Pasco County would have generated an additional $8.2 million in revenues.
Published August 1, 2018