The Pasco County School Board is expected to pursue placing a referendum on the ballot to give voters the opportunity to approve or reject higher taxes to support salary increases for teachers and district support staff.
During the board’s April 5 workshop, according to school board member Colleen Beaudoin, the board’s chairwoman, Cynthia Armstrong, told Superintendent Kurt Browning “there appeared to be a consensus for him to write up a resolution to bring back to the board for consideration.”
Beaudoin also said that Armstrong told Browning there didn’t appear to be a consensus among board members regarding the amount of a millage increase the board wishes to pursue.
The issue is expected to come up at the board’s April 19 meeting.
According to the workshop background materials, the board is considering these options:
- A .5 mil increase, which would yield an average instructional increase of $2,000; non-instructional, $850
- A .75 mil increase, which would yield an average instructional increase of $3,000; non-instructional, $1,275
- A 1 mil increase, which would yield an average instructional increase of $4,000; non-instructional $1,700
Based on Pasco’s median home cost of $325,000, and assuming a $25,000 homestead exemption, a property owner would pay $150 a year, if the increase is .5 mil; $225 more per year, if the increase is .75 mil; or $300 more per year, if the increase is 1 mil, according to district workshop materials.
Based on district calculations, 1 mil would generate $37 million; .75 mil, would generate $28 million and .5 mil would generate $18.5 million.
Don Peace, president of the United School Employees of Pasco (USEP), addressed the board, earlier in the day, during its regular meeting.
“I’ve come to you over the past several months advocating that we do better for employees. I continue that conversation today.
“We have got to do better.
“Since the beginning of the school year in August, 1,354 employees have left the district, due to retirement or resignation. Seventy-three percent have been zero to 5-year employees; and 14% have been 12-plus year employees,” he said.
“We have got to do better to retain our employees.
“After this meeting, there will be a workshop to discuss a referendum. This initiative is no longer an option for this district, but a necessity for us to attract and retain experienced and highly qualified employees, into the future.
“I’ve advocated for this for almost five years and the time has finally come for us to make a collective decision.
“It is my hope that this board would move this conversation forward to a formal vote and take the necessary steps to get this initiative placed on the November ballot.
“I will state here today that USEP will fully support this endeavor.
“We need to make this happen for our employees, our students and our community.
“Together, let’s make positive changes for Pasco. Together, we can do better,” Peace said.
Beaudoin said she fully supports seeking a full mil increase.
She prepared notes for the workshop, which, when interviewed about the session, she offered to share with The Laker/Lutz News.
“I thought it was really important to give context — that these are people (who need the raises), Beaudoin said.
She took it upon herself to circulate about the community to talk to people, to glean examples of real-life situations.
Beaudoin said she spoke to a veteran 17-year teacher who was taking home $1,100 every two weeks in Pasco. That teacher now makes double that amount, in Hillsborough County.
Beaudoin spoke with another teacher, with 28 years of experience, who left Pasco to go to work in Hillsborough. That teacher received a $15,000 pay increase.
Pasco eSchool recently lost an English language arts teacher to Pinellas County, for a $7,500 pay increase.
Wesley Chapel High School lost a teacher to Hillsborough for $12,000 more. The teacher would like to return, but can’t afford the pay cut.
Those were just some examples of teachers changing counties for better compensation that were cited in Beaudoin’s notes.
She also reported the district is losing teachers to other industries.
“Businesses are seeing that teachers make great trainers. We want our teachers using their talents for our kids. We don’t want them leaving the profession. Pasco High lost a science teacher to go to Moffitt. This was a great teacher who was in tears and did not want to leave. However, she has to provide for her family,” Beaudoin wrote.
The school board member said she realizes that Penny for Pasco and the referendum on pay raises would be on the ballot at the same time, but she believes the community will support its schools.
They are two different measures, Beaudoin said, noting the Penny for Pasco provides funding for school construction, remodeling and other capital needs. The referendum, on the other hand, addresses people needs.
Ultimately, Beaudoin said, it’s about providing quality schools for the county’s students.
“I am hopeful that our community sees the importance of good schools and what good schools do for our community — because they are the backbone of our community,” the school board member said.
Published April 13, 2022