The Wake County school board approved a plan Tuesday to give thousands of the district’s non-teachers bonuses of between $350 and $650 early in 2017.
The new bonus plan, using a mixture of $2.6 million in local and state funds, will give bigger bonuses to longer-serving support staff workers. The plan was adopted after the board told staff to revise a plan geared at giving a $500 bonus only to employees making less than $15 an hour.
The new plan will mean more employees get a bonus. Instead of 4,300 employees potentially eligible before, Chief Business Officer David Neter said 6,000 employees could qualify under the plan adopted Tuesday.
“This is a good option and I’m pleased that we can offer it to our employees,” said school board member Jim Martin. “But I’d just like to reiterate that this is barely scratching the surface. As we approach the budget season, we need to very seriously consider a living wage for all of our employees.”
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Under the new plan, bonuses will be given to non-teachers in employee pay grades 16-30. This group includes people such as teacher assistants, school cafeteria workers, bus drivers, mechanics, custodians, clerical staff and some central office administrators.
Within each pay grade are steps, which typically represent a year of service. Employees in step 0, meaning they’re brand new to the district, will not be eligible for the bonuses.
The bonus ranges, which are contingent upon the employee having a satisfactory job evaluation rating, are:
▪ Steps 1 to 9 will get $350;
▪ Steps 10 to 14 will get $425;
▪ Steps 15 to 19 will get $500;
▪ Steps 20 to 24 will get $575;
▪ Steps 25 and above will get $650.
The bonuses will be paid in January or February.
The state sets the base salaries for most school employees, and school systems can supplement that pay. For each of the the past two years, the school board approved 3 percent pay raises for support staff.
This year, the state provided Wake $1.7 million to provide a merit bonus to state-funded non-teachers. But Wake school officials said locally funded support staff should also get bonuses so additional money is being found to pay them.
In November, Wake school staff had suggested targeting the bonuses at employees making less than $15 an hour because that’s an amount some have said is the minimum needed to have a livable wage. Around half of Wake’s support staff, or 4,300 employees, make less than $15 an hour.
But school board members urged staff to revise the plan after hearing concerns from groups, such as Teamsters Local 391, about how not all school bus drivers were included in the plan.
On Tuesday, staff presented four options, which all exclude step 0 employees, and requires employees to have good ratings to get the bonus. The options are:
▪ Option 1 is the same as what was presented in November with the exception of not including step 0 workers;
▪ Option 2 would provide a $450 bonus to employees making less than $17.50 an hour;
▪ Option 3 would provide a $400 bonus to all employees in pay grades 16 to 30;
▪ Option 4 that was backed by the school board.
On Tuesday, Rachel Eitzen, a representative of Teamsters Local 391, told the school board that the group was in support of Option 4.
“We just thank you all so much for your support of the employees,” Eitzen said.