Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


District staff get paid vacation


On a 4-1 vote, the Haines Borough school board Tuesday approved a combined $12,000 in paid vacation time and raises for two school district office employees.

Member Brenda Josephson cast the lone dissenting vote against the increases, saying that to make the decision at a single meeting without additional review was premature, in part because the total cost of the change was not clear, as it didn’t include extending a full year’s credit to the employees’ benefits. “This should have been vetted,” she said.

School board members Sara Chapell and Sarah Swinton were absent.

Under the change, district administrative assistant Ashley Sage will be paid $57,856 for 260 days per year, including 30 days of paid leave. Sage currently earns $51,180 for 230 work days at a rate of $29.67 hourly.

Business manager Judy Erekson will be paid $52,103 for 240 days, including 20 days of paid leave. She’s currently paid $46,761 for 220 days at a rate of $28.34. Her hourly rate will go to $28.90 next year.

Workers are compensated for extra hours under a “comp time accrual” method whereby they take hours off for overtime hours worked.

Erekson and Sage currently get two days of paid leave and seven paid holidays. The two positions are not represented by school district employee unions, but in recent years received the same raises as classified school employees.

Superintendent Michael Byer said administrative assistants and business managers in other districts get paid leave, and provided a chart suggesting the two positions here were paid less than comparable schools. However, all but one of the districts Byer used in his comparison had enrollments larger than the Haines district.

“We’re just asking for paid vacation, which is what professional people get,” said Erekson.

Board member Scott Doddridge said having to decide the raises at a single meeting was “kind of a tough pill to swallow,” but that it amounted to “leveling the playing field” compared to similar jobs elsewhere. “We’re looking at less and less (revenues) coming in, but it’s time to move past the argument that the Haines quality of life makes up for lack of pay.”

Board chair Anne Marie Palmieri said the increases – that amount to a 13 percent raise for Sage and 11 percent for Erekson – were worth the value of retaining long-term employees. Sage has worked for the district since the late 1980s. Erekson was hired about six years ago.

“Back when (Sage) started 25 years ago, the culture was different. Now we have professional employees and we need professional positions,” Palmieri said. She said the raises made pay for the positions on par with comparable positions in the region. “I think paying a living wage is important.”

Member Lisa Schwartz was critical of the timing of the decision process, saying the raises were a budget issue. “We’re always talking about there’s no money in the budget. I know both these people need paid time off but to figure out salary this way, it’s crazy.”

Under the change, no more than 15 days of unused annual leave may be carried over to the next work year except by approval of the school superintendent, and “any excess shall be paid off.”

The board’s action adopted a salary schedule for the positions. It shows the administrative assistant position starting at $41,000 annually and Sage at the top step at $57,800. Erekson’s pay of $52,013 puts her about halfway up the same schedule, which peaks at $62,111 annually.