Editor’s note: This is part of a series on the top stories in Pasco County during 2013 as selected by The Pasco Tribune staff.
WESLEY CHAPEL — After years of static salaries, school employees and county workers in Pasco County finally saw larger paychecks in 2013.
Both the county commission and the school board approved pay hikes for their employees, even as they wrestled with budget concerns and, in the case of the county commission, heard from constituents who weren’t too happy with the idea of paying higher taxes to give government workers more money.
When the 2013-14 budget was approved, the county commission gave 3 percent pay raises to county employees, their first pay hike in six years. Initially, firefighters, who are covered by a separate union contract, were expected to receive 1.5 percent raises, but County Administrator Michele Baker later negotiated a settlement that also gave them the 3 percent increase.
Even as the decision was made, some taxpayers implored the commission to keep salaries where they were so taxes would not go up.
“I do not feel obligated to pay for any wage increase for any county employee,” resident Julann Moore said at a county commission meeting in July. “I do not feel obligated to pay for your retirement, either. Save your own money for your own retirement.
“The public is not your slush fund,” she continued. “Stay within your means, because we don’t want any more taxes.”
Even as the commission was dealing with employee raises, the school board was busy negotiating contracts with United School Employees of Pasco that gave teachers and other school workers their first raises since 2007.
Teacher salary increases were made possible because Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature included money in the state budget to pay for the raises.
Because teachers would be getting raises, Superintendent Kurt Browning and the Pasco County School Board decided to find money in the school district budget to pay for raises for other workers, such as custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers.
Those raises varied.
All teachers received across-the-board raises of $580 a year. In addition, veteran teachers received “loyalty shares” worth $310 for each year they worked through the recent economic downturn, up to five years. The total annual raise for a teacher employed for one year was $890 and for five years was $2,130.
The district’s longest-serving teachers — those with 27 or more years of experience — received an additional share, bringing their raises to $2,440.
Other school employees represented by the union, such as custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers, saw step increases that varied by positions.
The district also set aside money to provide raises to administrators and other employees who are not represented by the union. The increase for administrative employees averaged about 4 percent, and the increase for other workers averaged about 4.8 percent, according to district records.
Reporter Laura Kinsler contributed to this article.