Salary bonuses may be coming for thousands of essential Wake County Public Schools employees who haven’t had a raise in years.
The school board recently reviewed a plan to pay a one-time $500 bonus to hourly employees such as teacher assistants, custodians, child nutrition, bus drivers, office staff, and others using a combination of state and local funds.
The bonus was given by the state for employees who are in good standing and paid with state funds. The latter created a logistical issue for the school system because about one-fourth of the employees in these positions are paid with local funds, and it is different from school to school.
WCPSS Chief Operating Officer David Neter told the board that there may be a secretary at one school who is paid with state funds while a secretary at another school is paid with local money.
“That would mean that some teaching assistants at a school would get a bonus and some would not,” Board Member Monika Johnson-Hostler said.
The state-funded positions would get the bonus while the others wouldn’t, so the plan Neter presented to the school board members provided an option to make sure every qualifying employee in specific jobs would receive the bonus.
The state’s bonus also fell short of a $500 gross amount, and Neter’s proposal included local funds to make up the difference for all employees. The bonuses will be subject to state and federal income taxes.
Even with these adjustments to make sure the same positions and roles receive the bonus, it doesn’t capture all of the school system’s non-certified staff. This was an important point for School Board Member Jim Martin who said the whole salary schedule for non-certified staff needs adjustment.
“If this is a budget issue, we should seriously talk about this because our employees shouldn’t be any different than county employees,” Martin said. “There’s about 8,000 non-certified in all, so only 4,300 are eligible.”
Other members agreed, suggesting the board needs to evaluate its hourly rates based on market indicators. Member Bill Fletcher said one thing to consider is what the average monthly rent is on an apartment and whether the hourly wages are enough to afford that.
Board Chairman Tom Benton said that almost 50% of non-certified staff earn less than $15 per hour. Neter confirmed this and added that starting hourly pay for a teaching assistant is $11.87, bus drivers earn $12.55, custodians are paid $11.75, and an entry-level accountant makes $13.91.