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Education

Hillsborough teacher raise may lift holiday sales


Published:   |   Updated: November 24, 2013 at 08:19 AM

TAMPA — Hillsborough County public school teachers will receive a gift Friday, and it’s not from Santa.

The eighth-largest school district in the nation and the largest employer in Hillsborough County is doling out raises that equal about 4 percent of teachers’ salaries. And on Friday, they will receive hefty paychecks that include a lump sum of the extra money they would have earned so far this year if they had gotten the raises on July 1.

The extra cash comes just in time for the Black Friday shopping frenzy. Teachers will receive up to several hundred dollars more in their checks Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.

The retroactive teacher raises — which total $6.8 million — could provide the local economy with a temporary boost, especially since they come at the time of year when spending is at its highest, Hillsborough County economist Kevin Brickey said.

“Certainly, that can have an effect on an individual’s retail spending,” he said. “Exactly how much is a different question.”

Also on Friday, the school district will send an additional $1.5 million to cover the retroactive raises of support employees such as teacher aides and guidance counselors, spokesman Stephen Hegarty said.

The school district and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association settled on the raises in September and the school board made them official in October. Teachers saw their hourly raises for the first time in their Nov. 15 checks.

The district employs more than 15,500 teachers and more than 25,000 employees in all. It is followed by MacDill Air Force Base as the second-largest employer, then the University of South Florida, county government and Tampa International Airport, according to the county’s 2012 comprehensive financial report.

While Brickey predicts some teachers will put the money toward holiday gifts, others will inevitably use it to reduce debt or stash it in savings.

“Some will go into all three categories,” he said. “How much varies per person.”

Debbi Petrone-Cosme, a math resource coach at Buchanan Middle School, plans to use the extra cash to replenish her savings account.

“I’ve been having to do car repairs,” she said. “We just got our first check with the raise in it and it allowed me to pay cash. I didn’t have to put it on a credit card. I’m very appreciative we got raises.”

Petrone-Cosme, who is in her 20th year of teaching, will stay away from the crowds of shoppers on Friday. Rather, she’s spending Thanksgiving week in Napa Valley, Calif., with her husband. “I am not doing a lick of shopping,” she said. “I’m going to relax and recharge.”

The extra money comes at a good time for Melissa Castro, a Jefferson High School math coach, who plans to hit Target for some Christmas shopping Friday. She estimates she will receive an extra $300 in her paycheck.

“It’s a little extra money for our family,” Castro said.

Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Rohrlack said that by investing in teachers, the school district is investing in education, which is not only important to parents but also to employers.

“Any time you have such a large group receiving a compensation increase to that kind of level, that’s more disposable income coming into the market,” Rohrlack said. “Hopefully, we’ll see that impact in the not-too distant future and will continue to help strengthen our economy.”

District employees such as school bus drivers and custodians, represented by the Hillsborough School Employees Federation, received their raises Nov. 1 and saw their retroactive checks on Nov. 15.

Principals, assistant principals and other administrators will receive their raises Nov. 29 and their retroactive checks Dec. 13.

ekourkounis@tampatrib.com

(813)259-7999

Twitter: @ErinKTBO

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