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Sturgis school board approves wageincrease for staff groups

By Dennis Volkert

Sturgis Public Schools Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved wage increases for hourly staff, organized in multiple job categories.
In October, the district’s finance committee determined about $245,000 is available in the budget to use toward an increase in wages for some staff.
Four-year contracts were ratified for all employee groups in 2022 for the 2022-23, 2023-24, 2024-25, and 2025-26 academic years.
In September, the board of education approved an additional 2% increase in wage for all educational assistants, with exception of behavior interventionists, retroactive to the beginning of 2023-24.
At that time, the board instructed the finance committee to conduct research and recommend additional adjustment for hourly staff.
On Oct. 19, the committee met to draft a recommendation.
Employees get the recommended changes during the Dec. 15, 2023, pay cycle.
Estimated cost of the recommendation is $130,000 to $145,000. That leaves $100,000-115,000 for any unforeseen increase to expenditure.
The committee considered numerous aspects, including a desire to understand priorities set by employee leadership teams; reality of trends in job vacancy and turnover; and solutions that are financially sustainable. 
Under current contracts, all employees are eligible for an additional 1% in wages (beyond negotiated step advancement and the negotiated wage increase) when that year’s audited fall count is higher than the previous year’s count.
All employee contracts and handbooks expire at the end 2025-26 school year. The district’s goal is to have them renegotiated prior to expiration. That will occur in 2026.
Here is a recap of the approved recommendations.
Bus drivers
Increase hourly rate for our bus drivers from $17.66-$18.66 to $18-$19 for the remainder of the 2023-24 academic year. That also increases the following bus driver rates: 
  • Layover rate from $16.04-$17.04 to $16.38-$17.38.
 • GSRP/Special education route rate from $17.84-$18.84 to $18.18-$19.18.
 • Previously negotiated percentage increases for 2024-25 and 2025-26 will be added to the new hourly rates presented above.
Educational assistants
 Increase the hourly rate for our Educational Assistants from $13.19-$15.09 to $14.00-$16.00 for the remainder of the 2023-24 academic year.
 Previously negotiated percentage increases for 2024-25 and 2025-26 will be added to the new hourly rates.
Secretarial
Currently, secretaries are not provided longevity compensation. The new plan provides secretarial staff with the same longevity compensation that is provided to district office staff.
 • $500 for 15 years of service.
 • $750 for 20 years of service.
 • $1,000 for 25 years of service.
Drivers/maintenance
 Begin sick and personal time on the first day of employment for all bus drivers, maintenance staff, mechanics, grounds staff and pool staff. Currently, sick and personal leave start after completing one or more years of continuous employment.
 Start health insurance benefits on day one employment for all qualifying bus drivers, maintenance staff, mechanics, grounds staff and pool staff. Currently, health insurance benefits start after the ACA qualification period.
One-time bonus
Provide a one-time bonus to all behavior interventionists, secretaries, maintenance staff, mechanics, and foo,d grounds and  pool staffs: $600 for employees that work four or more hours per day; $300 for those who work fewer than four. 
HSA health plan
All staff enrolled in the district’s Green Plan (HSA) will have the following annual employer contribution included in the structure. These contributions are subject to the state’s “hard cap,” and will be made in January of each year.
 • 1-person HSA: $300.
 • 2-person HSA: $600.
 • Full family HSA: $600.
Board member Ben Myers said the one-time bonus was designed as a gesture of appreciation to those workers, a “thank you” to the staff. 
Myers said when the committee met, there was commitment, within the budget framework, that at least 50% of available funds should be allocated for support staff.
Gwen Donmyer expressed the need for proper compensation of staff. 
“We really appreciate all our employees and we need to take that into account.” 

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