Despite the pleas of many longtime Pasco County teachers, the school board voted to approve the district's 2012-13 budget on Tuesday evening.
The decision was not unanimous.
This is the second consecutive year the district has faced a multimillion dollar shortfall, Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said before the vote.
Despite that, the district managed to balance the budget, still provide "comprehensive benefits" to employees and decreased the proposed furlough days from four to two, Fiorentino said.
Pasco has a proven record with academic success and financial leadership, she said.
But many in attendance at Tuesday evening's board meeting expressed concern that the districts success came with a price tag heftier than the $503 million dollar operating budget allowed for: teacher morale.
School-related personnel and teachers have not had a salary increase in five years, this will be the 6th year, Eric Ronda of Wesley Chapel told the board.
And as far as the superintendent's comments on school grades and student improvement, "it is our employees who help get the grades up," Ronda said. The district is balancing the budget on the backs of our employees."
"Pay us a decent wage," David Pike of Odessa said.
The 19-year veteran teacher told the board he works a second job, as does his wife, just to make ends meet.
"Morale is really deteriorating in our schools," Pike said. "It's time to take care of our teachers."
District employees do understand tight budgets, Land O' Lakes High Teacher Patrick Connolly said. "We've been dealing with our own tight budgets."
What teachers don't understand is why its being budgeted at their expense, especially hard to watch while "there is so much waste," he said.
Connolly referenced a recent Tampa Bay Times article citing a $45 per hour pay rate for substitute principals, "to watch over lunches."
Retired Pasco teacher Georgiann Jones said she was very disappointed that after five years, "the morale of teachers has not been able to rise."
There are cars in the school parking lots after 8 p.m. at night because teachers are so dedicated. "There is so much placed upon them," she said.
They do it every day and put in hours on the weekends "because they care," Jones said. "We need to see you care."
It's hard for teachers to generate trust when information is kept from them, United School Employees of Pasco vice president Kenny Blankenship said.
"When we read in the newspaper that substitute principals are making $45 an hour, we question the need for furlough days," he said.
"We need to relook at this budget," Blankenship said. "We believe that there are issues in this budget that need to be addressed."
But the appeals did not stall the board's approval, which allocates about 61 percent to teachers' salaries.
School board member Steve Luikart was the lone dissident when the final budget hearing concluded and the board called for a vote.
Luikart said he felt there were areas the district could apply cuts that would better serve staff and help Pasco align with neighboring districts such as Hillsborough, which is slated to spend $29 million on teacher raises, according to The Tampa Tribune.
"I do not feel this budget is in the best interest of the students," he said.
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