By Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writer
Published Friday, May 2, 2008
LARGO - The Pinellas School Board began efforts Thursday to try to soften the blow of a $43-million budget cut that could include wage cuts for 16,000 employees.
Board members asked administrators to come back next week with more information that would justify the cuts, explain them more fully or aid in the search for alternatives.
Superintendent Clayton Wilcox and his staff have a plan that would eliminate 147 jobs, cut wages by 2 percent for 14,000 employees, and impose even deeper pay cuts for about 2,000 workers whose workdays would be cut from 8 hours to 7.5 hours.
The latter group includes maintenance employees, bus drivers and school police officers whose pay would drop by 3 percent to 6.25 percent.
Among the ideas board members want to explore: increasing health insurance premiums instead of cutting pay.
Under Wilcox´s plan, the district would shoulder a projected $11.5-million increase in health insurance premiums, shielding employees from any impact.
But some board members wanted to study the option of shifting some or all of that $11.5-million into salaries, reducing or eliminating the pay cuts.
What would premiums be if they did that?
What would employees think of the idea?
Among the considerations: Not all employees avail themselves of the district´s health plan. Plus, pay cuts affect pensions.
Some board members also expressed concern that the cuts would fall harder on the 2,000 employees whose workdays would be reduced. They asked for more details on their salaries.
Administrators said they focused on that group because they were the only employees with eight-hour days. Reducing the burden on them, they said, would increase the burden on the other 14,000 employees, perhaps necessitating a pay cut of 2.5 percent instead of 2 percent.
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