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CHCCS considers plans for non-instructional staff pay increase as it falls behind market

NC Living Wage Bill

DTH Photo Illustration. The CHCCS Board of Education filed a report comparing the wages of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools classified employees to surrounding school districts and other market competitors on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' classified staff, or non-instructional employees, are paid below market ranges, according to a report presented at last Thursday's Board of Education meeting. 

Evergreen Solutions, an independent consulting firm, conducted the employment study. The report compared CHCCS’s employee demographics, compensation practices and internal and external equity to surrounding school districts.

The study was conducted to help CHCCS administer equitable compensation moving forward.

Mark Holcombe, project manager at Evergreen Solutions, said the district's current pay structure does not consistently reflect its employees' years of experience in the minimums or maximums for pay ranges.

“When you look at employees coming into positions, we didn’t see them coming into the same spots, when you move employees through the pay ranges, we found various placements of employees through the ranges, even if they had similar years of experience," he said.

The study also found that pay for CHCCS classified employees was less than the district's competitors. Of the 84 positions evaluated in the survey, only five had pay rates above the average while 34 positions were below the market minimum.

“This is not a definitive assessment that those five positions are compensated accurately and the rest are not,” Holcombe said. “However, when you only see five positions out of the 84 that we looked at returning those numbers, we do think that does point to the fact that the compression, the lack of the consistent pay structure, has caused the district to fall below the market rate for pay.”

Holcombe made several recommendations to the board on how to address these issues and make CHCCS classified employee pay more competitive. The recommendations included adopting a new pay plan with consistent range spreads and assigning new pay grades to positions that are based on internal equity and market response.

One of the proposed pay plans is the Closest Step plan. It is the least expensive option, totaling about $416,870, but it would not address the imbalance between pay and time served as an employee.

Another option, the Class Years Placement, would give greater incentives for length of service to CHCCS, with a total cost around $2,829,620.

Two other proposed plans are the Next Step Placement, which also accounts for time served and grants an additional raise for service in 2022, and the Capped Approach plan, which puts employees where they would fall in the Next Step proposal but limits the number of years, or “steps,” reflected in their pay.

The total costs of these proposals are around $3,352,160 for the Next Step Placement and $1,755,940 for the Capped Approach, calculated to reflect a change of 5 steps.

Board member Mike Sharp voiced concern about these prices.

“One of the charges here for us is to select an implementation that aligns with our compensation philosophy and also our financial means,” Sharp said. “It sounds like on the board, we're in agreement obviously that we really value our employees and want to make sure they are getting what they deserve. What I don’t feel like we know is our financial means and what we are able to do.”

Board member George Griffin also spoke about the difficulties of including additional costs in the CHCCS budget.

“We want to be fair and we want to do something to get the classified salary pay scale where it needs to be,” Griffin said. “Of course, we have responsibilities as stewards of the budget and money and you just can’t approve things if you can’t pay for it, we know that.”

Holcombe said work on the plans has not yet concluded and that additional efforts could be taken to align the costs of the program with the funds available in the district's next budget.

CHCCS Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Scott said implementing the high-cost proposals may not be viable, given the many other needs and expenses faced by the district. 

“I don’t think we could sustainably fund the $3 million plus option without significant influx of new revenue,” Scott said. “That's the best answer I can give. I wish we had it, and I wish we could do it, because we know that everybody deserves it, but there are realities.”

As the board goes through the approval process, Board Chairperson Deon Temne asked for options to provide some relief for classified staff. He said that while there is reason for concern about the budget, some kind of change in pay is needed for the district's classified staff.

“I know some of our classified staff are struggling — they’ve been here a while, they’ve been doing this thing,” Temne said. “We spoke about being courageous before, so we gotta also be courageous to really reach out to our classified staff and put them in the forefront.”

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