In the aftermath of Thursday afternoon’s special school board meeting in which a raise mistakenly given to classified employees was revoked, the question arose from some in the standing-room-only crowd — if the 4.9 percent raise was included in the district’s 2018-19 budget, why does it not automatically go into effect with the budget?
Superintendent John Thissen offered some clarification to that question Friday morning. He said it was a question he also often received.
The district is legally required to negotiate salaries with bargaining units, such as the Kansas National Education Association, which represents the teachers, and the Service Employees International Union, which represents custodial and maintenance workers.
The 112 classified employees — including administrators, certified department directors, cooks, technical support, bus drivers, secretaries and early childhood staff are not represented.
Historically, the district has given those employees the same raise negotiated by the teachers union. Thissen said that is not unusual among Kansas school districts.
What makes Hays unusual is that it is one of only two districts — Wichita USD 259 being the other — with employees represented by SEIU. SEIU Local 513, Wichita, has about 28 members in USD 489, but its agreement covers all maintenance and custodial workers contracts. The group completed its negotiations earlier this year with a 4.6 percent average raise for those employees.
However, the Hays KNEA chapter and the district are at impasse in negotiations and will meet with a federal mediator Thursday. Those negotiations began in February and were bogged down over the amount of the raise.
The district has offered a 3.2 percent average raise for the teachers. KNEA is holding out for the 4.6 percent.
Board member Luke Oborny said in Thursday’s meeting said there was a “math error” in August, while board member Mike Walker said after the meeting the board had realized its dollar figures were off and that changed plans.
Thissen said the 4.6 percent was chosen when he and Tracy Kaiser, former executive director of finance, were preparing the budget so the district could ensure it would have the funds to provide whatever raises were negotiated with KNEA and SEIU.
“We felt that would be the amount that we have to have on hand to handle our budget for the coming year, so that’s why it was budgeted that way,” he said.
“You can end up making the case the budget has 4.6 (percent) in it, but the 4.6 was put there because that was the best guess of what we would definitely have to have. It was the maximum that was identified, but if anybody asks ‘Do we have 4.6 in our budget,’ the answer is ‘Yeah, we do.’ But that doesn’t mean that then that’s what the negotiations are going to be,” he said.
It was considered in Thursday’s meeting to continue the 4.6 percent raise for the classified staff, but board members were concerned about the ongoing teacher negotiations.
“I can imagine if we kept the 4.6 percent across the board for everyone but teachers, teachers would feel that was being unfair,” board member Walker said after the meeting.
Walker had made a motion to stop the raises for the 13 classified administrators and seven directors, but keep it for the remaining classified employees, who typically earn a lower wage. That motion died for lack of a second, however.
Board member Lance Bickle said in Thursday’s meeting it might be time to reconsider how raises are decided for classified staff.
“I do think that is a discussion we need to have. Historically, as John said, salaries — administrative, certified, all that — have been tied with (teacher negotiations). I think that is something we need to discuss wether or not that stays the same, or down the line there is separation there,” he said.