The Santa RosaCounty teacher’s union may be deeply in debt and if it doesn’t find its way out pretty quickly, member benefits will be affected.

The Santa Rosa Professional Educators union is $128,000 behind in its dues payments to the Florida Education Association, according to FEA spokesman Mark Pudlow.

Pudlow said he did not know how the Santa Rosa union had fallen into debt or how long the debt had been accumulating.

“They’ve been paying something every month, but they haven’t been paying the full amount,” he said. “It’s  been ongoing for several months, maybe longer.”

Matthew Hargraves, an attorney representing SRPE, said he had just been made aware in the last week the FEA believed his client owed money.

He said at that time he requested to learn the amount and to look over an invoice but had not as of Monday obtained information.

“I was told by the FEA there was an amount owed. I have not seen a statement,” Hargraves said.

Hargraves said when he receives the FEA’s invoice he will determine whether a dispute exists about the amount owed.

“I can’t confirm there is a debt. I do not have in my possession any notification of an exact amount,” he said. “I have spoken to the general counsel for the FEA and asked him for a current statement of what is due and  owing.”

Teachers pay dues to their local union that also covers the costs of affiliation in the state and national educators’ unions, Pudlow said.

A local union that falls behind in its payments puts its members at risk of not having legal representation, he said, and union benefits like discounts on credit cards, travel and mortgage rates can also be impacted.

He said he did not know if Santa RosaCounty’s union had been sanctioned, but confirmed penalties are being considered.

Efforts to obtain a comment from the SRPE were not successful.

There are more than 100 local educator unions in Florida, Pudlow said, and the SRPE is the only one presently in arrears on its dues payments.

“I remember one other case where this has happened in the 16 years I’ve been working with the FEA,” he said.