Higley USD governing board studies hiking classified staff pay

David Loutzenheiser
David Loutzenheiser, Higley USD's secondary schools executive director, talks to the governing board about changes to the district's course guides. (Screen capture from YouTube)

David Loutzenheiser, Higley USD's secondary schools executive director, talks to the governing board about changes to the district's course guides. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Caught in a whirlpool of a shrinking labor force, rising wages and limited resources, Higley USD’s governing board studied a proposal Nov. 17 to raise its classified staff’s pay.

The board watched a video from Mum Martens, HUSD’s human resources executive director, and Tyler Moore, the district CFO, on the proposal and why the district believes it must adopt the new pay schedule.

The board will put the proposal up to a vote at its next meeting Dec. 8.

The proposal calls for the district to raise its minimum to $13.45 per hour and would give current employees a $1 per hour pay raise and bus drivers $2 per hour more.

Classified exempt workers as well as managers, supervisors and coordinators would get $1,000 in supplemental pay to their contract or work agreement.

Martens said the district wanted to give a bump, but with the recent loss of the district’s $95 million bond question, this was the best they could do and be fiscally responsible.

Moore said the bond loss means the district will have to go back to transferring money from its maintenance and operations budget, which pays for most salaries, to its capital budget to be able to afford to pay the district’s leases on its two middle schools. That in turn limits the district’s ability to offer raises.

As it stands, the proposal would cost the district an additional $3.9 million to cover the classified staff’s pay increases, Moore said.

Despite the additional costs, Martens said the district had to make move to remain competitive in the marketplace and retain its employees.

Martens cited several factors in that need, including individuals staying out of the labor force until they find the job they want, rather than taking any job; private businesses and other districts paying higher wages and offering incentives such as sign-on bonuses; and the ongoing nationwide bus driver shortage as well as other frontline workers.

Martens said the district traditionally has had difficulty filling classified jobs, which include bus drivers, custodians, paraprofessionals, lunch aids, crossing guards and grounds workers.

Additionally, a recent seven-district salary study in which HUSD participated with peer districts showed the district to be paying below the median on such jobs. Martens also noted that the minimum wage in Arizona will rise to $12.80 per hour Jan. 1.

The governing board also studied changes to its course guides for high schools, middle schools and the Higley Virtual Academy for next school year. The changes included courses being added or removed, changing descriptions and some fees. Like the classified staff pay proposal, the governing board will consider whether to approve the guides at its Dec. 8 meeting,
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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