RSS sorts through details of pay raises, salary scales

Published 12:09 am Tuesday, December 14, 2021

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education on Monday sorted through a set of new salary scales that will mean pay boosts for some employees, retroactive pay and a path toward more raises for hourly employees.

The board approved a minimum wage increase for nutrition staff on Nov. 29, but district finance staff members were unable to implement the entire update for the nutrition department because it was waiting on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to create its own scales that line up with the budget.

Now, RSS nutrition employees can expect to see pay increases across the board in addition to the previously approved starting pay of $13.39 per hour, which is 39 cents higher than the new state minimum. Bus driver pay raises were approved in November before the passage of the budget and the state finalizing pay scales.

The scales now include retroactive pay for hourly employees outlined in the state budget. The new state budget raised minimum wages for school employees to $13 per hour, and all hourly staff will get retroactive pay back to July 1 covering the difference between what they made and $13 per hour, or a 2.5% increase if that number is greater.

The pay scales are a long list of steps and positions that let school districts identify how much each employee would be paid. The RSS scales were complete in November, but they had to be revised to line up with the state’s new scales after the new budget was signed into law.

Board member Travis Allen asked what the litany of unlabeled pay scales mean.

District Human Resources Director Jill Hall-Freeman said part of the pay study completed earlier this year was to create scales the district can use for positions such as coordinators and directors.

“Part of our work right now is we’re taking every single position in the district and making sure we place them on the proper grade,” Hall-Freeman said.

Hall-Freeman noted many employees have dual roles, and those who drive buses will be paid on the updated bus driver scale for the hours they spend on the road.

Allen also asked if there is a time frame to place the rest of classified staff on new scales.

Chief Financial Officer Carol Herndon said there are a few options to address the issue as the district moves into 2022. One would be to bring the board a full price tag to implement all of the scales and corresponding raises or look at rolling out raises for the next two high priority positions. Those positions are teaching assistants and custodians. Herndon said the district could implement something in between the two as well.

“Our intention is to keep this an active conversation with the board and to bring different possibilities to the board in the very near future,” Herndon said.

Herndon said the Finance Department is looking within the district at expenditures to determine if it can find more funding for implementing salary scales. She said RSS has started conversations with the county government about the upcoming budget, too.

The pay increases for nutrition and bus driving staff — the 39-cent higher minimum wage, for example — were effective Dec. 1. That date has already passed, but the pay increases will apply for the entire month when employees are paid in January.

Board member Brian Hightower said he hopes the changes help fill some of the 70 vacancies in the school nutrition department, but he wants to find more ways to compensate workers in short-staffed cafeterias.

“If you’re supposed to have five workers in a cafeteria and you only have three, I think we’ve got to be able to come up with a way to support those people because they’re obviously pulling more than their weight or more than what their job description is,” Hightower said.

Classified staff on the lower end of the scale can expect more increases in the next fiscal year because the state budget will require minimum wage for classified staff to jump to $15 per hour.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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