Union chief, schools superintendent agree on short contract, vote now goes to union membership

skinney@keynoter.comMay 7, 2014 

With just seven weeks left in the contract period covered, the Monroe County School District and United Teachers of Monroe said Monday they had a negotiated an employment contract.

Both sides acknowledged that with the 2013-14 contract now pending ratification by the teachers' union and then expected approval by the School Board, it'll soon be time to start working on a contract for the 2014-15 school year. That begins in August although officially it's tied to the July 1 start of the school system's fiscal year.

After a year of negotiating and no agreement -- particularly on language that would allow the board to invoke unpaid furlough days if a financial emergency arises -- an impasse hearing was set for Friday at Marathon High School. That will be cancelled.

In 2011 and 2012, the board imposed seven unpaid furlough days each year to save $1.7 million each year and avoid layoffs.

The contract pending ratification includes language that would still allow the board to institute furloughs.

"On behalf of our members, I am excited to see us reach a negotiated agreement that truly represents a reasonable compromise on the part of both parties," UTM President Holly Hummell-Gorman said.

She added that she's "thrilled not to have to go through the legislative impasse hearing."

If the Friday meeting had progressed, the board was expected to impose contract terms.

Hummell-Gorman said ratification votes from the various employee groups are expected by May 19. The School Board has a meeting set for May 27.

Board members and Superintendent Mark Porter agreed that it's better to start the next round of bargaining from a mutually negotiated position rather than an imposed contract.

The one-year employment contract covers 525 teachers and 114 school-related personnel like bus drivers and food-service workers.

Teachers get a $1,500 pay raise (amounting to between 2.24 percent and 4 percent) plus an additional paid day of work that, depending on base salary, ranges from $229 to $400, Porter said.

Principals and assistant principals are getting a 2 percent pay increase totaling $43,000. School-related personnel also get a 2 percent raise totaling $55,000.

All of that is covered by an earmark from the Florida Legislature that set aside $1.25 million for the raises.

The district is taking an additional $150,000 in general fund revenue to give a 2 percent raise to all non-union district personnel, Porter said.

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