Classified staff, such as school nurses, custodial workers and child nutrition employees, in the Albemarle County school division will be getting bigger raises in the coming fiscal year than earlier planned.
Coupled with a planned minimum wage increase, classified employees should see raises of greater than 4%, according to a presentation at Thursday’s School Board meeting.
Initially, those employees were slated to receive a 2% raise while the division budgeted a 5% raise for teachers following a push at the state level for a higher pay bump.
The raise is part of $1.7 million in additional expenditures that division staff are recommending to be included in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. The division has seen an increase in state funding, which should cover the new expenses.
Division staff also proposed a slight increase for teacher raises, from a planned 5% to a 5.2% raise that would cost an additional $190,000.
“The extra bump will further enable us to be more competitive with our teacher pay scale,” said Maya Kumazawa, director of planning and budget.
Other new expenses include $164,000 to expand the STEP program that serves as an alternative to out-of-school suspension and $215,000 to restore three full-time positions cut last year. Those changes will be officially voted on in May when the budget is adopted.
When the School Board approved the $208.9 million funding request last month, board member Jonno Alcaro asked for division staff to look at giving classified staff members a higher raise. The 4% boost will cost an additional $1.02 million.
About $2.8 million is going toward the first phase of a plan to raise the minimum wage in the division to $15 an hour. Currently, 448 of the division’s 2,514 employees make less than $15 an hour. As part of the first phase, division staff also would make adjustments throughout the pay scale to avoid wage compression.
A full-time custodian currently making $14 an hour would see a 25.2% pay raise in FY 2022 following the minimum pay increase and the extra 4%, according to the presentation. Meanwhile, a full-time bus driver making $17 an hour would see an 11% raise.
“I like every one of the recommendations, and I’m very pleased with the classified staff increase to 4%,” Alcaro said. “I think that’s a great decision and a great recommendation.”
Moving forward, schools Superintendent Matt Haas said he wants to take a look at coupling the certified and classified pay raises so both groups of employees receive the pay bump each year.
Also last month, board member Kate Acuff and others said they wanted division staff to review the adopted market of school divisions, which is used as a gauge for compensation comparisons and to guide raise recommendations. At previous meetings, Acuff and others have suggested the current market isn’t an adequate metric, given the demographic changes and growth in the county schools.
“So what I’m hearing is you would like us to target divisions that look more similar to [the county] in terms of student enrollment and the work they’re doing,” said Lorna Gerome, director of human resources for the county.
The current market basket of 26 school divisions was established in 2000 and last evaluated in 2017, which resulted in a change in the salary scale for teachers.
The board’s goal is to be at the 50th percentile for classified staff and at the 75th percentile of the adopted market for teachers, a target that has been in place since 2005.
“My input would be: I would like to not be behind the city of Charlottesville with our compensation,” Haas said.
The city has one of the highest starting salaries for teachers in the area, at $48,143. Albemarle teachers start at $46,503. Next year, Charlottesville teachers will receive a 5% raise and start at just over $50,000.
Acuff added that many of the 26 basket divisions are more rural than Albemarle.
“I question whether we need a different group of schools to be compared to,” Acuff said. “Like Dr. Haas said, it is a challenge for us to always be behind Charlottesville, which is probably our biggest competitor.”