Albemarle County schools staff Tuesday presented a plan to raise the minimum hourly rate for division classified staff from $9.75 to $10 an hour to alleviate salary compression.

The move would also bring employees with at least eight years’ experience into the middle salary range of Albemarle’s competitive market – a list of similar localities to which the county compares its staff pay.

Schools staff also explained that an improved local revenue picture landed the division in a much better position than they had originally anticipated.

The division is facing a $691,000 revenue gap in Superintendent Pam Moran’s funding request.

This fall, Albemarle County general government staff predicted local revenue growth of about 1.8 percent, which would have left the schools with a more than $5.6 million funding gap, said division finance director Jackson Zimmerman.

Shortly before Superintendent Pam Moran presented her budget, county staff told the division the actual growth had been 2.4 percent.

“We are down to a funding gap of under $700,000, which is a very fine thing to say at this point,” Zimmerman said. “There are many things that could affect this between now and April, but to think that when we started this in November we were $5.6 million short … things look much better.”

In a presentation exploring the 2017-2018 funding request, division human resources director Lorna Gerome said the pay raise for classified staff, expected to cost $480,000, would make hiring for open positions easier.

“Over the last two years we have had lengthy recruitments, and have had to repost jobs. That has caused stress with our current staff,” Gerome said. “They have had to work longer and take extra shifts.”

Salary compression occurs when the division offers a potential hire more money than a long-tenured county employee makes in order to hire workers from different markets.

During the economic crisis, the division was forced to forego staff raises, which meant some employees are paid below what their salary scale would normally dictate.

School board member Pam Moynihan said staff salaries should be looked at in the context of the local market.

“This is a government job, the federal government hasn’t had a raise in several years,” she said. “We should just look at this and say, this is what those jobs make here … This is how things are in this community.”

Schools chief operating officer Dean Tistadt said the division has had offers turned down on the basis of salary.

“This is not theoretical,” he said. “We are having quality candidates turning us down because they say, ‘No, I am not doing that job for that money.’”

Moran’s total funding request is $180.0 million, a 4.7 percent, or $8.1 million, increase over the current budget.

The school board will hold a second work session on the financial plan Thursday. A public hearing is scheduled for January 31 at 6:30 p.m. in Lane Auditorium at the County Office Building on McIntire Road.

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