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Albemarle considering $15 minimum wage

About 500 of the lowest-paid Albemarle County school division and government employees may see a pay increase this year.

The county and school division are considering increasing the minimum pay of classified employees. Proposals include increasing minimum pay to a rate between $12.75 and $15 an hour, and addressing compression in some of the pay scales.

According to Human Resources staff, the school division has about 500 employees who make less than $15 an hour, while the county government has seven employees.

In a recent school division budget work session, Human Resources Director Lorna Gerome said everyone in the school division except licensed teachers and the superintendent are considered classified employees. Classified employees are paid on different pay grades, or bands, based on the job.

Bringing the school division minimum pay rate to $13.50 an hour would cost $2.1 million, and the additional cost to raise it to $15 an hour would be $1.65 million. That funding also includes addressing compression in the lowest nine pay grades in the school division.

The School Board adopted its funding request last week, which included the $13.50 an hour rate, but with a request for additional funding to go up to $15.

Dana Robb, the county’s program manager for compensation & rewards, said school division employees making less than $15 an hour include teaching assistants, food service associates, custodians, bus drivers, van drivers and transportation assistants.

“Our department heads have told us that they are concerned about recruitment and retention efforts going forward, and we currently do have vacancies for all these different discussions,” she said.

In 2019, Charlottesville increased the minimum wage for government and school employees to $15.

Starting Jan.1, the University of Virginia increased its minimum wage from $12.75 an hour to $15 an hour for about 1,400 full-time workers at the university’s school and hospital facilities. More than 800 contract employees also will see the increase.

In part to compete with academic research hospitals, Sentara Health Systems said it would increase its minimum pay for employees to $15 by 2022.

Robb said the school division wants to “preserve commonality” with local government.

It’s unclear what increase local government will propose, as County Executive Jeff Richardson will present his recommended budget to the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 19.

Supervisors lent support in December to starting pay at $12.75 an hour in July and phasing in a $15 per hour wage in the future.

During a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, Richardson acknowledged the school division’s desire to go up to at least $13.50 an hour.

“If I can build a little more in the budget and go a little more aggressively than $12.75, I want to make that a very high priority for the budget that will be recommended to you,” Richardson said.

Both the county’s teacher pay scale and public safety pay scale, both step scales, would be unaffected by this change, which staff said already include pay for those positions above $15 an hour.


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