RSS board will consider major pay boost for bus drivers

Published 12:01 am Sunday, November 14, 2021

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education on Monday will receive a recommendation to implement a major pay increase for district bus drivers.

The meeting begins at 4:30 p.m. and will be held at Wallace Educational Forum. The meeting can also be viewed online at vimeo.com/rssboe.

The board will consider implementing the recommendations of a recent salary study starting with its highest priority position: bus drivers. The change would bump starting pay for district bus drivers from $12.13 per hour to $16.49 and increase the highest end of the pay scale from $14.88 per hour to $25.39.

The change would result in significant increases for new and longtime employees and would cost the district about $700,000 to implement starting Dec. 1 of this year.

The state has yet to approve a budget for this year, which pushes off much of the burden on local money. Draft versions of the budget include minimum wage increases for state workers that would help get the district the funding it needs to implement all of the recommendations in the pay study for hourly employees.

RSS Chief Financial Officer Carol Herndon will present two possible funding options for the pay increase in this fiscal year: either through an appropriation from the district’s fund balance or reconsidering the approved spending plan for part of the district’s federal relief money.

Looking ahead to the next fiscal year and beyond, she will discuss evaluating over allotments, finding additional fund in decreased maintenance costs due to relief-funded air quality improvements in facilities, reviewing non-salary and benefit lines for cost optimization, “optimize number of schools” and seeking more local funding from Rowan County.

In other agenda items:

• The board will receive an update on the Knox/Overton K-8 project. The district bid out site surveying for the project and received bids for the work ranging from $97,500 to $131,384. The recommended action will be to approve the low bid from Dewberry Engineers for $97,500. Money for surveying is included in the project budget.

• The board will be shown draft goals that are part of the district’s strategic plan process and administration is seeking feedback on the goals from the board.

The seven focus areas outlined in the goals are student wellness and engagement, academic skills, interpersonal skills, unique life goals, human capital, parent and community engagement and “operational excellence.”

The presentation will include discussion of each goal and how they will be measured. Some points are familiar and have been talking points of Superintendent Tony Watlington. In the academic skills focus are in particular the three priorities are to improve literacy, increase growth and decrease the number of low-performing schools identified by the state.

• Herndon will present an update on spending of COVID-19 relief funding. The district is undergoing the first review of the spending by the state. The district has already spent all of the $4.75 million it was awarded in the first round of relief in 2020. It has spent a combined $2.6 million of the funds from the the two packages awarded in late 2020 and early 2021, with more than $63 million in federal money left.