June 23, 2010

School ancillary staff unhappy with raises

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

When the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 School Board approved an overall salary increase of six percent for the district’s ancillary staff, they thought that the raises would be satisfactory. But during the board’s meeting on Monday, June 14, they heard otherwise.
According to Steve Holen, district superintendent, he had met with a group of employees  from the ancillary staff on May 20 concerning the salary increases that they were given, and at that time, the employees informed him that they didn’t feel that the increases were adequate.
“The group representing the ancillary staff felt that they deserved increases of 10 percent this year and five percent next year,” stated Holen. “In addition, they wanted to be able to access all five days of their leave for family/sick leave instead of the two days that the district now provides.”
The ancillary staff which includes the secretarial staff, janitors, aides and bus drivers, according to Holen, felt that they should be entitled to larger increases because of the level of increases that were given to the district’s teaching staff and to the administrative staff.
“Basically, the ancillary staff, which received between a 75 to a 90-cent per hour increase, says they feel unappreciated,” stated Holen. “The salary increases that were provided to the teachers and to the administration were higher than that.”
“The teacher base salary went up $3,700 this year,” stated Jim Tveter, who spoke on behalf of the ancillary staff. “That is an increase of $2.29 per hour. And the ancillary staff only received a 50-cent per hour increase.”
And with that difference in salary increase, Tveter noted that the ancillary staff feels slighted and unappreciated.
“The higher hourly paid ancillary staff employees only received a 50-cent per hour increase, not a six percent,” stated Tveter. “Everything they buy is going up in price.”
But according to Kelly Norby, school board president, the ancillary staff’s quarrel shouldn’t be with the school board, but with the legislature.
“The legislature mandated that 70 percent of the new state money that was provided during the last legislative session was to go toward teacher’s salaries,” stated Norby. “I’m sorry, but we can’t raise taxes to pay the ancillary staff more. We felt that a six percent increase was good.”
While Norby noted that the board would not take any action at Monday night’s meeting, the administration would bring a recommendation to the next board meeting.
“We value our ancillary staff,” stated Holen. “They are important to what we do every day. But this is really difficult. Everybody could use more money, but we have to figure out what we can do within our budget and what we can sustain over time.”
In a non-related issue, Holen also presented the school board with a preliminary budget for the 2010-2011 school year.
“The preliminary budget as presented is for $6.234 million and reflects a $300,000 to $400,000 deficit,” stated Holen. “We hope that we  won’t see a deficit of that amount, but we have to budget for it considering our projected income and expenses.”
In other action, the school board:
• Was informed by Supt. Holen that all professional staff contracts have been signed for the upcoming school year.
• Was informed that three members of the ancillary staff - Laurie Hamre, Kay O’Connor and Jamie Pittsley - had resigned.
•Approved the hiring of Jack Cook as a new full-time high school custodian at $11.75 per hour.
• Was informed that the junior high and “C” squad volleyball positions have not been filled.
• Approved signing a division order with Conoco Phillips for an oil well that the district has mineral interests in.
• Was informed that two condensing units with the school’s air conditioning system have gone out.
• Approved making upgrades to the sound and video systems in the high school Commons Area and the Media Center.