The Tullahoma City Schools (TCS) Board of Education is considering giving its noncertified employees another raise this year, according to recent discussion from school officials.
At a Jan. 9 study session of the school board, Director of Schools Dan Lawson presented the board with a proposal to give the noncertified employees of TCS another 4-percent boost in pay in an effort to remain competitive in the local job market for noncertified positions such as custodians, maintenance workers and nutritional staff.
“We have spent a lot of time looking at, listening to and responding to the fact that the unemployment rate has changed in our community, has changed in our state,” Lawson said. “We have a number of entry-level jobs that are much more competitive with our school system than they used to be.
Lawson described listening to the radio and hearing three different commercials for jobs in the community.
“It wasn’t necessarily a great job, it wasn’t necessarily tremendous, but some of those jobs started at a greater rate than we have,” he said.
According to Lawson, the district is “more than competitive” with the neighboring school systems in the area.
“If you look at Moore County (custodial jobs), they start at $8 an hour and they top at $12.30, and their maintenance ends at about $16. Coffee (County Schools) is at $9 to $13 (per hour). Coffee’s maintenance is from $12.06 to $18.05.”
The school systems around Tullahoma are not to whom the district is losing employees, he said. The district is having to compete with private industry, like factories and fast food places.
“Our competition is some of these smaller factories that have opened and say, we start at $12 an hour,” Lawson said.
“We know what the market looks like, we know what the school market looks like and we know where we have our biggest challenge.”
He said the business office and the personnel office had taken a look at what the district could do to help attract more applicants. Greg Carter, the director of personnel for the district, took the floor to explain what he had come up with.
“You’ll remember as we started this year we gave a 3-percent increase to this population,” he said.
The district’s next step, he said, could potentially be giving the custodial and maintenance workers (H-schedule) and the nutritional staff (N-schedule) a small raise in their respective base salaries.
Carter explained that he and Business Director Mike Roggli were proposing giving the base salary of all H-schedule employees a 44-cent-per-hour raise in their paychecks, from $10.56 to $11 per hour.
The N-schedule employees would see a 50-cent increase, from $9 to $9.50 per hour on the base.
School board member Teresa Lawson felt that the proposed increase was not enough, saying she had hoped for a bigger increase for the school employees.
“That 44 cents or whatever that number is, that to me is nothing,” she said during the meeting.
The director addressed her concerns, saying that this was the most practical step to take at the moment.
“I get it, when we talk about an hour,” he said, “but when you multiply that by 2,000 hours and we multiply that for the number of employees (we have), that changes the dynamic.”
Lawson said that when he, Carter and Roggli were originally looking at how the district could mitigate pay concerns, they first looked only giving the lowest-paid employees a $2-per-hour increase.
The problem with that proposal, he said, was the compression of the entire salary schedule.
“You’ve compressed your salary schedule,” he said, “and that person who’s been here nine years suddenly has the person next to them who’s making three cents an hour less, and you may have bought some irritation.”
According to Roggli, the money for the proposed changes would come out of two separate budgets.
The nutrition department has its own budget that will be used to cover the increase, he said, and that raise will not affect the district’s general purpose budget.
The general purpose budget would instead only need to cover the H-schedule increase, which would land in the market of $19,000 in enacted by next month.
“If we started it in February and went through June 30 it’d be $19,376,” Roggli said.
The nutrition increase would cost a little over $10,000 to last through the end of this school year, according to Roggli. If enacted for the first February pay period, the total cost from the general nutrition budget would be $10,500.
Across the board raises
The original proposal set forth by Carter and Roggli did not include a pay increase to the S-schedule employees, or all the other classified and non-certified positions in the district. These jobs include various secretaries in each building, educational assistants, paraprofessionals and certain supervisors.
Instead, the proposal would be to encourage all the current S-1 level employees — educational assistants —to take the ParaPro test and move up to the paraprofessional level, or S-2.
That would cost the district an additional $6,000 from the general purpose budget, according to Roggli, if all the current S-1 employees moved up to S-2.
However, Kim Uselton, the school board vice-chairman, asked if it was possible to give all the S-schedule employees a small raise, as well.
She proposed giving all the S-schedule employees a 50-cent raise as well, which the rest of the board supported.
According to Roggli, giving all the S-schedule employees a 50-cent raise would equate to almost a $34,000 expenditure from the general purpose budget for the district in addition to the H-schedule employees.
If enacted in February, the S-schedule raise would cost $42,916.
If the board enacts all the proposed raises, the general purpose budget would see $62,292 withdrawn from its coffers.
With the state of the district’s monetary affairs, however, Lawson said that it might be possible to swing all the financial goals the board has for its employees.
The board is expected to vote on the issue at their next regular meeting next Tuesday, Jan. 23.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.