DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. - Members of the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees plan to show up by the dozens at tonight's Duval County School Board meeting.
The union represents custodial and kitchen staff who work in the school system. During negotiations last year, the group agreed to a seven percent pay cut to help the school system save money in a year when their budget shrank.
"It's been devastating, but you know, me and my wife--we pulled together and try to do the best we can," explained Ronald Howard who in August will have worked for the school system for 28 years. "But you know, what do you do when you don't have it?"
However, employees like Howard were shocked to learn that the school system has a reserve fund of $100 million. The pay cuts saved the system just $1.1 million.
According to Duval County Schools Spokeswoman Jill Johnson, the money in the reserve fund cannot be used for "recurring" expenses like salaries. Instead that money is to be used a rainy day or emergency fund for one time expenses.
Union members met over the weekend and decided to protest the pay cuts in front of the school board. They will be outside the building before this evening's meeting and hope board members will reinstate the money employees have lost over the last year.
"Now that they know the impact that it made on people's lives, livelihoods, adjustments we had to make, hopefully, they will listen and they'll see how serious the impact was," said Howard.
The school board meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the board room on the first floor of the school administration building, which is located on Prudential Drive.