Flint, MI— A group of Flint Community Schools employees is about to see their first raise since 2014.

Flint Schools Board of Education approved a 3 to 5 percent pay increase and improved salary schedule for technical and professional staff Nov. 11.

“[We] implemented a new salary schedule that was more of a cleaner scale that would acknowledge the work that they do… We wanted to keep it consistent with the 3 to 5 percent increase that had been agreed upon with the other employee groups,” Executive Director of Human Resources Cassandra Washington said. 

The condensed, five-step schedule offers a clear pathway to advancement with a 3 percent raise between each level, Washington said. 

Interim Executive Director of Finance Ayunna Dompreh said the move will increase the district’s newly projected $8.2 million deficit for fiscal year 20-2021 by $44,000.  

In June, the board approved an initial budget that included a $12.8 million deficit. Due to the pandemic, Flint Schools saved $4.7 million in operating costs, lowering the deficit to $8.2 million. 

“We are taking into consideration some savings, but it is still conservative just in case we do come back to school, we can operate and provide all the services that we should,” Dompreh said. 

Approximately $19,000 of the $44,000 will be taken from the general fund while the remaining $25,000 will be supplemented by grants.  

President Casey Lester and Vice President Diana Wright said they were hesitant to approve pay raises while in a deficit. 

“I do understand that people deserve to be compensated, but I cannot support this under the current conditions… The most important job we have as board members is fiscal responsibility. I do not doubt that every one of the people that is on this list for a raise deserves it. But we’re supposed to be trying to show the state and others that we can get our finances in order,” Wright said. 

Lester said he was sympathetic to the need for a pay increase, but because technical and professional staff are not “frontline” workers, raises could wait. 

“Now’s not the time, in my opinion. Operating the way that we’re operating with COVID, we’re going to see more budget cuts coming from the state. I apologize because I know it sucks not having had a raise since 2014, but industries across the board have frozen pay increases, because there’s such drastic losses in every sector,” he said, adding that he was open for dialogue on the matter.  

Secretary Betty Ramsdell said she disagreed with Lester’s position. 

“If you don’t think working at the attendance office is frontline, it is frontline. We can’t replace those kinds of staff with that kind of background and information. They’re an intricate part of enrollment…I appreciate the deficit but we’re not going we’re not going to pay off the deficit by having people who are not competent at their job or who have a strong learning curve. Losing essential workers does not aid your deficit,”  Ramsdell said. 

Trustee Carol McIntosh added the district has a track record of “blessing” people who don’t do their jobs with “golden parachutes” but never supports those who do the “heavy loading.” 

Teachers and support staff at public and non-public schools will receive up to $500 hazard pay for their work during the pandemic. The Michigan Department of Treasury is expected to release the funds in Feb. 2021.

Administrators and school business professionals are not eligible for hazard compensation. At Flint Schools, these workers have been reporting to the administration building since the onset of the pandemic while teachers and support staff have been able to work virtually, Superintendent Anita Steward said. 

The motion passed 6-1. Wright was the sole nay vote. 

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...