PANAMA CITY — After months of negotiations and meetings with district officials, some educators in Bay County might soon see more money in their paychecks.
Bay District Schools announced all its support employees will make at least $15 an hour starting the beginning of July, seeing double-digit increases for 78% of support employees.
BDS officials held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to explain their decision with Bay Educational Support Association (BESPA) and what it means for all employees. This decision gets ahead of Florida’s Amendment 2, which passed in November of 2020 to increase the minimum wage to $10 and gradually increase the total to $15 over a period of five years.
The total cost of this salary package is $3.9 million, with the raises ranging from 6.16% to 46.63%. The average salary raise is 18.9%.
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BDS Chief Financial Officer Jim Loyed said they came to this agreement on Monday night after a five-hour session.
“This wasn’t required to happen until October, but the superintendent and board recognize the increase in housing cost and just overall inflation that all of our employees are having to deal with,” Loyed said. “So they wanted to get this in the hands of the employees as quick as possible.”
The contract must still be ratified by the union and approved by the School Board. Shaun Brown, an executive board member for BESPA, said they are aiming to get everything out in the next 10 days for members to vote on..
Brown said BESPA and its members are happy with this contract, saying he was happy they were able to get it out so quickly before the next school year.
“It means a lot to retention of employees because there’s a lot of people hiring,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of jobs out there and a lot of jobs that are paying pretty good and it means a lot for our employees to be on par of the surrounding jobs.”
As a BDS maintenance worker, Brown believes the contract can help with recent worker shortages and bring in more employees.
“We’ve had a lot of hard times filling positions at maintenance because the pay was low,” Brown said. “And now we’ll be able to be a little bit more competitive on surrounding companies as far as starting pay and keeping employees from leaving to go to other companies.”
While officials said these initiatives are beneficial to those on the lower end of the pay scale, they recognize that some inequities have been inadvertently created. Loyed said officials had a little over $4 million in funds to spend and they are using $3.9 on this one group.
gov. Ron DeSantis recently mandate that districts increase all teacher salaries to a minimum of $47,500.
“Obviously, we have a lot of other employees that we will have to deal with salary increases. Fortunately, the teachers have a special allocation that’s coming from the governor, from the legislators to try to get them to the $47.5 goal that we’ve been trying to get to for the last couple of years,” Loyed said. “We feel confident we’ll be able to get to that, but again, there’s other employees that are they’re having to deal with inflation and cost increases as well.”
Loyed said the process is nerve-wracking as the CFO since he is the one balancing the budget, but overall he knows this is huge for employees and believes it’s a great step.
After speaking with fellow employees and union members, Brown agrees this was the best decision.
“I’ve talked to quite a few employees and they are all very excited about getting a very nice raise,” Brown said. “It’s really going to help out with the gas prices and everything going up and inflation. It’s really going to help out with a lot of that.”
To calculate new salary, BDS officials encourage those to visit ‘www.bay.k12.fl.us/union’ and click on the “approximate rate calculater.”