School employees to see pay increases

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, May 29, 2013

— Some Janesville School District employees will get raises in the coming year as part of a plan to make their salaries equitable with others in similar jobs.

The Janesville School Board voted 6-3 after lengthy discussion Tuesday to spend $113,747 for catch-up raises for 22 of the district's 27 social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, youth advocates and diversity specialists.

The administration had asked for $227,494 over three years to bring the 22 employees' salaries to a level that the administration believed would be close to similar jobs in the area and in other school districts, but most board members would not vote on a three-year spending plan.

The rules don't allow a board to require a future board to spend a specific amount, said board member Bill Sodemann. Others agreed.

Board member Kevin Murray said two of the employees would be getting $21,000 increases over the three years, and he could not justify that to his neighbors.

Others would get increases over three years of $16,000, $8,000, $6,000 and $5,000, Murray said.

"In my heart and my gut, this is just the wrong thing to do," Murray said.

Some of the employees would be seeing 30 percent increases, board member David DiStefano said.

Board member Karl Dommershausen said those amounts show that the district hired those employees at a bargain.

Dommershausen said the employees had paid into their pension fund since 2011, while union employees did not have to, and now they would be faced with increased costs for health insurance, as well.

Some of these employees have worked above and beyond their job descriptions, Dommershausen said.

Board members and district officials took pains not to identify those getting the increases. Discussions were held in closed-door sessions at least twice in recent weeks.

Discussions were closed to the public because the raises were tied to particular employees' performance levels, and that information is confidential, said human resources director Steve Sperry.

Murray said the employees knew what they were going to be earning when they accepted their jobs.

Sperry defended the increases, saying some of the employees have master's degrees but were not represented by a union, so they did not benefit from a union salary schedule.

Board member Debbie Schilling argued that if the board values these employees and wants to keep them, this is the way to do it.

The board considered postponing action until June 10, but Sperry said some employees might decide to apply for jobs elsewhere with such uncertainty surrounding their salaries.

After a series of votes on various proposals, the board voted 6-3 to fund half the amount—$113,747—in the coming year with at least half of each employee's pay discrepancy made up with that money.

Voting "no" were Greg Ardrey, DiStefano and Murray.

The board did not instruct the administration what to do about the remaining discrepancy, although some suggested a future board could address the topic.

Last updated: 10:31 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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