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Agreement inches school pay forward
The board okays a plan a union leader calls "bittersweet."
By JEFFERY A. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
Published December 4, 2007
LAND O'LAKES - Pasco school employees on Monday moved one step closer to getting raises.
The School Board unanimously approved a contract agreement that would give teachers raises averaging 4.14 percent, including annual increases based upon years of service. School-related personnel would get average raises of 4.65 percent, including step increases.
The board also extended raises of 4.26 percent to noninstructional, nonbargaining employees and 4.18 percent to administrators.
Including benefits, the total increase for teachers is $8.8-million. The additional funds for school-related personnel is $2.6-million. The noninstructional, nonbargaining workers will get $914,129 more, while administrators will receive an additional $996,179.
Lynne Webb, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, called the contract deal "bittersweet." Employees are glad to have a deal ready to go before the winter holidays, she said, but they're not so excited about the amounts.
When the school year ended last spring, she noted, the state looked toward a much better financial scenario than the one that exists now. Lawmakers already have cut $1-billion from the state budget, and state economists are predicting another year of revenue reductions.
Webb predicted approval by the workers, but added, "I don't think we're going to see the overwhelming acceptance levels we've seen in the past."
The employees are scheduled to vote on the contracts beginning Thursday. The union plans to tally the results and release them next week.
If the workers do not ratify the deal, the sides will return to the bargaining table.
In other business, the School Board postponed a decision until Dec. 18 to pursue a state grant that would allow the district to provide affordable housing for teachers.
If approved, the district could receive up to $5-million to support about 50 units of housing for "essential community workers," in this case school employees. The district would contribute 4 acres of land adjacent to Marlowe Elementary for the project.
Also, the board authorized its administration to take a $27-million line of credit with Bank of America to help with the cash crunch created by the fund crisis. It further gave the superintendent permission to open new investment accounts that will offer a better return than the state investment pool.
As of Nov. 30, the district terminated all electronic fund transfers to the state account, and all revenue will come directly to the district. Chief Financial Officer Olga Swinson said she expected more than $100-million in tax collections to arrive soon, and she wanted to have a place to put the money.
The state pool has experienced problems as governments have removed investments after learning that a piece of the fund was invested in defaulted debt.