Some Pasco County classroom teachers could see their pay rise by more than $5,000 in the fall, if the state doesn’t alter its budget dramatically.
School district finance officials made clear that they have no idea what Gov. Ron DeSantis will do with the spending plan lawmakers adopted this spring, whenever he receives it. Sales tax revenue that undergirds the system has cratered since the COVID-19 pandemic, throwing everything into question.
But districts start their new fiscal year on July 1, with final budget adoption due in September. They’ve begun preparing, while waiting for the Legislature to decide if and when it will hold a special session.
“We are working on the budget based on the numbers we have now,” chief finance officer Olga Swinson told the School Board on Tuesday.
Department heads have examined ways to cut expenses, she said. They also have looked at how to handle anticipated increases in fixed costs, and made projections based on anticipated enrollment growth.
Many numbers remain unknown, Swinson added. Much could change.
Within that context, though, she made some representations of where teacher salaries could be headed.
DeSantis called for boosting teachers’ minimum pay to $47,500, and offering bonuses to veterans who already earned more. His proposal would have cost nearly $1 billion.
Lawmakers eventually agreed upon a $500 million plan without any bonuses, that aims to get pay to the level DeSantis proposed. They targeted K-12 classroom teachers only, leaving out other educators.
Pasco’s share of the plan — a combination of shifting the Best and Brightest bonus fund and adding new money — would total about $13.3 million, including a portion for charter schools. Of that amount, it would split the money 80 percent toward the minimum pay, and 20 percent for other raises, as the Legislature provided.
That would translate into a base wage of $45,175, Swinson said.
“That’s the most we can do,” Swinson said. “The rest of the money will get us an increase of 1.4 percent” for the remaining teachers who already exceeded $45,175.
Currently, the minimum for Pasco teachers is $39,845. It takes up to 15 years for new teachers to surpass $45,000 per year on the adopted salary schedule.
Among the existing staff, the average salary is about $46,000, assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley said.
Shibley also stressed that the plan would boost salaries only for classroom teachers. Others, including prekindergarten instructors and instructional coaches, would not be included.
Board member Cynthia Armstrong asked what the district could do to reach the $47,500 target, and to possibly support the others.
“We don’t have the money,” Swinson said.
Administrators, school-related employees and other non-bargaining personnel are projected to get no raises the current review. Even then, Swinson projected a deficit of $1.6 million.
And that’s without a lot of information, ranging from money rolled over from the current year to extra costs that have yet to be determined.
Superintendent Kurt Browning assured the board that his team will submit a balanced budget, and still seek other ways to boost employees as best as possible.
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said.
Board chairwoman Colleen Beaudoin, meanwhile, said it remained difficult to have an intelligent conversation about any aspect of the budget because of all the unknowns.
“We are just waiting,” she said.
The board has asked for another budget update in July.