Secretaries and other clerical workers in Hays USD 489 could be the first to benefit after a study showed those positions are below the average paid to comparable workers in other school districts and Hays employers.

Keith Hall, USD 489 interim executive director of finance, led a discussion of the wage study at Monday night’s meeting of the USD 489 board of education.

“Our building secretaries are below the starting average wage paid by comparison districts, Hays employers and comparison cities,” Hall told the board and administrators.

Clerical workers are also slightly below the averages, he said.

The study by Fort Hays State University’s Docking Institute of Public Affairs compared wages of the district’s classified staff — including workers in kitchens, custodial, maintenance, offices, information technology and bus drivers — with those of five other districts as well as 59 employers in a variety of fields in Hays.

Wage information for similar positions was also collected from online job search sites for Hays and six other cities — Garden City, Dodge City, Liberal, Great Bend, McPherson and El Dorado.

Starting wages for school secretaries at USD 489 is $9.62 an hour. Among the school districts compared, USD 490 El Dorado was closest, with a starting wage of $9.87. USD 428 Great Bend was highest at $13.02.

The average starting wage for a similar position among the Hays employers in the study is $12.78.

Clerical workers in the Hays district start at $10.06. Data for only three other districts was included for that position in the study, ranging from $9.70 at USD 418 McPherson to $11.40 at USD 457 Garden City.

“The goal is to establish a new starting wage and anyone that is below that wage would be bumped up to that wage,” Hall said.

At this point, Hall was seeking feedback from the board and plans to present a formal plan later in the year to bring wages up and create the pay schedule.

While Hall recommends improving wages for the secretarial and clerical workers, that doesn’t mean other classified staff won’t benefit from the study, he said.

“That doesn’t mean we’re going to leave people out as we go through, that’s just where we’re starting,” he said.

“The other thing we want to do with this study is … we’d like to build a salary schedule for classified. We’d like to make sure we do this one correctly because we’ll use it as our base work for the next, as we work through kitchen and the different categories of workers,” he said.

While the district’s IT assistants were also below average, the other categories of classified staff were in line with or above the average.

Hall and Faith Lochman, USD 489 human resources coordinator, will be working on first figuring the cost of raising wages then how to create the schedule. They have several examples to draw from in the Docking Institute study.

“The folks that I’ve talked to that have done this said it’s very difficult to do,” Hall said of the pay schedules.

“The biggest head-scratcher of the work we do is figuring out where people belong, because you’ve got a couple of choices, or maybe more than one,” he said.

Those making less than what the new starting wage once it's established can be bumped up, Hall said, but then employees making above that wage have to be considered, as well.

“Do they get a raise, a quarter, 50 cents, 75 cents, a dime? Or do they get nothing?” he said

“Our thought is if we could get them on a salary scale early on, then it might take care of folks,” he said.

Phase one will be the people on the “front lines,” those in the school buildings, about 19 employees, Lochman said. Their job titles include principal secretaries, athletic department secretary, and nursing and library secretaries.

“What we’re looking to do is basically put these in two ‘buckets,’ a level one and a level two,” she said.

Level one would be the primary secretaries in a building, likely the principal’s secretaries, she said.

The spreadsheet Lochman is currently working with also takes years of employment into consideration.

“We’re looking at wages against years of experience,” she said.

While the district is mostly on target there, it could use some improvement, she said.

“We’ve got some folks in similar wage brackets that some of them have been here a little while and some of them have been here a long time. And that’s what we want to correct,” she said.