MANATEE COUNTY — In a split vote by the Manatee County School Board Feb. 15, the Manatee County School District has moved forward with a retroactive cut to the pay of teachers and teachers aides that will trim salaries by 1.75% — or between $96 and $154 per paycheck — for the duration of the year.
Teachers also are being asked to take two furlough days, which the district still must negotiate with the teacher’s union, Manatee Education Association, to determine how the days will be deducted from pay, Superintendent Tim McGonegal said.
Additionally, employees also will see an increase in employee health-insurance premiums of about 29%, among other measures.
McGonegal said the cuts, although necessary, already are negatively affecting employees.
“Morale already is not good,” McGonegal said. “It’s certainly not going to be good for teachers to take a pay cut. It’s not good for anybody to take a pay cut. It’s a very difficult environment we’re in right now. They’re very difficult decisions the board is having to make.”
Administrators and non-union employees saw salary cuts in July, at the start of the fiscal year, McGonegal said.
In total, the district has cut $60 million from its budget over the last four years. District employees faced a 1% pay cut in 2008, as well.
During budget discussion last year, McGonegal took several proposed budgets to the School Board, including ones for $11 million in cuts and $17 million in cuts. Ultimately, the School Board asked for a compromise, resulting in a proposal for about $14 million in cuts that included the 1.75% salary reduction imposed last week, as well as the furlough days.
The district’s impasse hearing last week worked to resolve a total of eight outstanding issues dealt with in a special magistrate’s ruling last month.
The School Board has held about eight executive sessions about the issue since July, and McGonegal said School Board officials had been unanimous in their support for how to proceed.
School Board members Karen Carpenter and Julie Aranibar, however, voted against imposing the salary cuts and several other measures at last week’s meeting.
Aranibar, whose district covers the East County, said McGonegal told board members the district had cut everything it could during executive sessions, but after hearing the union’s argument and getting other information, she felt other options that would not require salary reductions potentially were available to the district.
“If we’re at a point where we’re cutting pay, we ought to be cutting spending, and I haven’t seen that balance yet,” she said. “
Aranibar said she believes the School Board should take the recommendations of the special magistrate, who oversaw an impasse hearing on the teacher pay issue in December, to correct the district’s financial issues, including making adjustments to the district’s health-care programs.
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Results of the Legislative Body Impasse Hearing
1. Teacher Salary / Adopted motion to impose two furlough days for teachers and a reduction in teacher salary by 1.75%. / (3-2)
2. Paraprofessional Salary / No action, because item was withdrawn. Paraprofessionals will retain currently salary schedule and will not have furlough days.
3. Experience Step Advancement / Adopted motion to retain previously imposed language. Advancement only to occur if negotiated; otherwise no step advancement for 2011-12. / (3-2)
4. Health Insurance Plan and Premium / Adopted motion to implement Health Insurance Committee recommendations. / (3-2)
5. Additional HMO Plan / Adopted motion to include additional HMO Care 52 plan effective June 1. / (5-0)
6. Life Insurance / Adopted motion to reduce the district-paid life insurance benefit, with the option for the employee to buy more coverage. / (5-0)
7. Terminal Pay / Adopted motion to retain previously imposed modifications to terminal pay benefits. / (4-1)
8. Virtual Educators / Adopted motion to include mutually proposed contract language provision relating to virtual educators that includes the district providing necessary technology. / (5-0)
Board bolsters bus services
The Manatee County School Board Feb. 13 agreed to dedicate more than $200,000 in funding over the next two years to address the district’s unmet transportation needs.
The crash of a bus carrying students from Braden River Middle School on Jan. 5, on State Road 64 near Walmart, stressed the district’s need for more bus drivers and more administrative staff, Transportation Director Don Ross said.
The School Board approved the hiring of 11 full-time bus drivers starting July 1, as well as the immediate hiring of one safety officer and trainer and a full-time transportation director.
“Before (the meeting Feb. 13), we had six office staff driving school buses,” Ross said, adding staff members who are licensed to drive buses are regularly utilized to help. “We took them out of payroll and out of routing (and other departments).
“The accident really brought to light all the voids we had,” he said.
Ross said the district needs 200 bus drivers daily but currently is about 20 drivers short. It uses all 10 of its substitute drivers regularly, as well as office staff.
Ross said there is a statewide shortage of bus drivers, and many other school districts are also short on drivers. Miami-Dade Public School system, for example, is 250 drivers short, he said.
Training and certification for bus drivers take several weeks, and many prospective drivers fizzle out to take more immediate jobs or to find another career path, Ross said.
In a week’s worth of training this month, potential new drivers for Manatee County schools dwindled from 25 to 10, he said.
“By the end of the year, we will have hired and trained 100 bus drivers,” Ross said.